Rule 40/IPC Athlete Image Policy Guidance


October 1, 2015


Earlier this year, the IOC published its updated Rule 40.3 guidance for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The IPC has now published its analogous “IPC Athlete and Participants’ Image Policy” for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

In summary, the guidance is intended to:

  • Enable continuation of in-market generic advertising featuring Rio Games participants during the Games period, thereby eliminating a significant source of athlete dissatisfaction and disruption to athlete sponsors.
  • Protect exclusive Olympic/Paralympic sponsor rights to use Olympic/Paralympic intellectual property (“IP”).
  • Ensure that all stakeholders understand that each National Olympic Committee (“NOC”)/National Paralympic Committee (“NPC”) will be responsible for Games Participant advertising guidance and enforcement within its own territory. 

After careful thought and with input from the USOC Board of Directors, the USOC National Governing Bodies Council (“NGB Council”) and the leadership of the Athletes’ Advisory Council (“AAC”), the USOC has crafted its  Rio Games Participant Advertising Guidance for the U.S. territory. The USOC guidance aligns with the principles set forth in the IOC and IPC guidance. 

In order to fairly and consistently institute an equitable waiver process to benefit athletes and protect Olympic and Paralympic sponsors’ rights, we are implementing a new waiver process for the U.S. territory. This updated process allows for:

  • The fact that Rio Games participants qualify for nomination to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams at various points leading up to the official IOC Rule 40 period and analogous IPC period. All potential participants will be able to apply for a waiver.
  • Balanced athlete biographical references in advertising that follow the USOC’s longstanding athlete endorsement policy.
  • Additional lead time for advertising materials to be submitted to the USOC, both by Olympic/Paralympic sponsors and by non-Olympic/Paralympic commercial partners, so that such materials can be reviewed by the USOC in a timely matter.

As established by the IOC, the Rule 40 period for the Rio Olympic Games is July 27 – August 24, 2016.  As established by the IPC, the applicable period for the Rio Paralympic Games is August 30 – September 21, 2016 (in each case, nine days prior to the Opening Ceremony until three days after the Closing Ceremony).

Key Provisions of the USOC Rio Games Participant Advertising Guidance:

  • To qualify as “generic advertising” non-Olympic/Paralympic partners must comply with the following rules:
    • No direct or indirect association with Rio Games, Olympic/Paralympic IP or terms generally associated with the Olympic/Paralympic Games.
    • Initial campaign submissions (which may be in conceptual form) must be submitted to the USOC website by six months in advance of the applicable period (January 27, 2016 with respect to the Olympic Games, and March 1, 2016 with respect to the Paralympic Games), to ensure the USOC has time to review and respond, manage resubmissions and allow for advertiser production schedules.
    • Initial submissions need not include all proposed tactics; however, each and every final tactic will require a waiver.
    • Submissions must include a media schedule demonstrating that the campaign will be in market and run continuously starting no later than four months  in advance of the applicable  period (March 27, 2016 with respect to the Olympic Games, and May 1, 2016 with respect to the Paralympic Games).
    • For campaigns featuring a non-U.S. participant, a letter of approval from that participant’s NOC/NPC must accompany the submission.
    • Should a U.S. participant wish to appear in any advertising outside of the U.S., the USOC will provide a letter of approval to the relevant NOC(s)/NPC(s).
  • The USOC’s waiver process will be managed online via its USOC Athlete Marketing Waiver System, which includes an archive system to enable the USOC to manage the volume of approvals needed in a timely manner.
  • The IOC will launch a global monitoring process for all athletes worldwide to track advertising activity. Note: this is not an approval process as only the USOC can grant the Rule 40 waivers for our territory.
  • Similarly, any process instituted by the IPC will be an approval process, as only the USOC can grant waivers for our territory.

Since June of 2015, the USOC has continuously provided, and will continue to provide,  a comprehensive stakeholder education process to ensure that we appropriately inform all athletes, NGBs, agents, and advertisers of the USOC’s Rio Games Participant Advertising  guidance.


Any questions related to the USOC’s Rio Games Participant Advertising guidance should be directed to:  


IOC Rule 40 Guidance (.pdf)

IPC Athlete and Participants’ Image Policy (.pdf)