The Summer 2016 Olympics already had all the markings of a disaster in the making. Brazil’s economy is on the brink of disaster, the water is polluted, the Zika virus is prevalent and the threat of kidnapping is very real for participants and tourists alike. With all this going on, you would think that the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) would be encourage any positive social media coverage it could get. Well, think again.
According to ESPN, the USOC is looking to crack down on non-sponsor companies who post about the Olympic on social media. In other words, if you want to tweet your support for the U.S. Olympics team, you better have paid up or be prepared for legal response. USOC is now claiming that such posts would violate their intellectual property rights.
“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”
The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.
Yes, they are trying to backdoor-trademark a hashtag.
It gets more ridiculous, however.
The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.
Imagine you own a grocery store in Anytown, USA and, on your company’s Facebook page, you congratulate a hometown athlete on her/his gold medal finish. You could be running afoul of the USOC.
While the USOC says that it’s doing this to make sure that it can continue to bring in the money necessary to sponsor athletes to go to the Game, this social media strategy does not seem well thought-out. So, companies of America, mind your hashtags.