With billion-dollar and exclusive usage rights in place, the Olympic Games have always been about big money and feverishly policed by lawyers on behalf of brands, content owners and media giants. But the advent of mobile and social — which allow us all to mash up content the way we like and share it with anyone using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other properties — make me question whether anyone (even high-powered lawyers) can hold back the tide.
The advance of user-generated content and consumers’ assumption that they are in control of their content and experiences has huge implications for the London Games — and the brands lining up to get mileage out of the event.
Seeking to prevent guerilla tactics from non-Olympic Games’ sponsors, the International Olympic Committee has decided to restrict precisely how athletes can transmit photos and other information to networks and the wider world.
Yes, you read this right.
The IOC has introduced The Olympic Athletes’ Hub, which it says will include the verified social media feeds of more than 1,000 current and former Olympians. According to Mashable, this destination will post content directly from athletes’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, and incorporate a gamification layer incentivizing fans to interact with the site. Users will be able to access exclusive training-tips videos and gain virtual and real-world prizes according to how many athletes they like and follow online.
Significantly, athletes will not be allowed to tweet photos of themselves with products that aren’t those of the official Olympics sponsors. They are also not permitted to share photos or videos from inside the athletes’ village.
Amazingly, the restrictions don’t only apply to the athletes. Fans who are ticketholders are also barred from sharing photos and videos of themselves during Games’ action via Facebook and YouTube.
The crackdown is largely linked to a pair of new and stringent brand-protecting acts passed in the U.K. in preparation for the Games. (By way of background — and via the Guardian — the pieces of legislation are the 2006 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, and the 1995 Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act.)
I have a long history with the Olympics, first as a reporter (Los Angeles 1984), and later as a brand marketer (Atlanta 1996, Nagano 1998, and Salt Lake City 2002). Traditionally, the national and international Olympic organizations have been aggressive (and successful) in seeking to prevent non-sponsors from associating with the Games. But that was before smartphones and tablets. Will these new measures stem the tide of user-generated content and activity? Don’t bet on it. Instead, expect to see ‘bootleg’ footage and content from people at the Games. And watch the Olympic lawyers come after brands and individuals who violate these new rules.
The upshot? The Olympics aren’t the only games we will be watching this summer. While it might seem easier for companies (and people) to get around large sponsorship fees by harnessing user-generated content and content created by companies that are not official sponsors, be prepared for a tussle as rights owners struggle to lock down content and distribution in an age where mobile has changed the idea of ownership forever.
(post first appeared on mobilegroove.com http://www.mobilegroove.com/london-olympic-games-crack-down-hard-on-social-me...