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IOC’s marketing rules facing German challenge

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) rules governing athlete endorsement deals at the Olympic Games have been met with a fresh challenge with the news that Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, is taking action against the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB).

The Bundeskartellamt has said it is taking legal action against the DOSB over Rule 40.3 of the IOC Charter which states “no competitor who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Games” apart from by official IOC sponsors.

The Bundeskartellamt is concerned over the effective monopolisation of marketing rights during the Olympics, and the subsequent harm that this can have on the earning abilities of athletes. “If these guidelines are too restrictive in their detail, the athletes and their potential sponsors could be abused and the marketing of the individual restricted,” a statement from the Bundeskartellamt said, according to the AFP news agency.

If the DOSB loses its case, the IOC could subsequently see other European markets follow suit. The IOC said it will “co-operate in co-ordination with the DOSB”. A DOSB spokesman told German news agency DPA: “We are (working) with the Federal Cartel Office in an ongoing reconciliation process.”

In March, the IOC elected to maintain the approach employed for ‘Rule 40’ at the 2016 summer Olympic Games with regards athlete endorsement deals at next year’s winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Ahead of Rio 2016, the IOC simplified the implementation of Rule 40 to allow certain non-Olympic advertising during the period of the Games, in order to take into account the important support that personal sponsors provide to athletes, whilst protecting Olympic partners’ rights and further preventing ambush activities.