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You Could get Sued for Using Certain Hashtags

Moments marketing is the biggest digital marketing trend atm on instagram, brands have been riding the wave of current events to gain publicity however, in certain cases, brands could get sued, if they’re not careful of their # research.

Just like any other word or phrase associated with your product or service, you can trademark a hashtag. However, there are requirements to be awarded official registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), just as there are for other trademarks, and there are limitations to the level of protection you may expect.

Let’s talk about the most important event of 2021, apart from covid of course, the Tokyo Olympics 2021.

When it comes to marketing alone, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is extremely concerned about the preservation of their intellectual property. All potential Olympic and Paralympic Games hosts must submit substantial governmental assurances that they will preserve the IOC's IP, which is already some of the most legally protected IP in the world, as part of the application process.

Applicants are also requested to clarify what advertising possibilities they've previously obtained for a 500-meter radius around possible event sites and on public transportation, over a decade in advance. If the IOC isn't satisfied with any of this, the possible host will be kicked off the race.

Checking the IOC’s Legalities

In some cases, trademarked hashtags that have scaled social media have been hailed as ridiculous and entirely unnecessary. Given the ongoing Games, let’s take a closer look at the hashtags related to the Olympics and the generic response to these guidelines.

To begin with, hashtags on tweets are closely scrutinised by the US Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee. This is because the IOC believes in protecting intellectual property and sponsors of the Olympic Games. In a letter obtained by ES, the USOC warned sponsors of athletes who do not have a sponsorship agreement with it, or the IOC, about using trademarks such as "Olympic" and "Olympian."

The USOC's chief marketing officer, Lisa Baird, noted in 2016, "Commercial companies may not post about the Trials or Games on their business social media profiles." “This prohibition extends to the usage of USOC trademarks in hashtags like #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

However, since then, the International Olympic Committee has eased some of its rules, allowing firms that aren't official Olympic sponsors to continue publicising their association with athletes as long as they started running commercials as early as March.

Alternatively, it can well be said that the goal of this extraordinary due diligence is to safeguard official sponsors from ambush marketers, who pay large sums to be associated with the Games. In addition to regulatory safeguards, ticketing terms and conditions are frequently set to allow hosts to expel spectators from inside venues if they are suspected of participating in ambush marketing schemes.

Tokyo Olympics 2021

Ambush Marketing at the Games

Ambush marketing, also known as coat-tail marketing or predatory ambushing, is the technique of hijacking or co-opting another advertiser's campaign in order to generate exposure of a different firm or brand, most commonly in the context of event sponsorships.

The violent conflict between MasterCard and Visa that erupted at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, southeastern France, is one of the earliest documented examples of ambush marketing.

Visa was the official credit card sponsor of the 1992 Winter Games, having paid $20 million (roughly $35.5 million in 2018 USD) for the honour.

Visa produced television advertising in the months leading up to the games encouraging American Express members to keep their cards at home because "the Olympics don't take American Express."


This was technically correct; tickets to the games could only be purchased using Visa credit cards. Visa's aggressive ad campaign, on the other hand, drew the wrath of American Express, which believed Visa's advertising were deliberately misleading.

There have been several more ambush marketing episodes, some of which are huge successes to draw inspiration from.

Brands like Beats by Dre have been known to provide players with the latest must-have, super-vibrant things so that they may be viewed by millions on television. Paddy Power executed a campaign during London 2012 that concentrated on different cities called London; they incurred the fury of the games' organisers (and the PR that came with it), but ultimately succeeded.

Another option for marketers is to focus on the host country's culture rather than the city itself, while remaining cautious of what they can and cannot say.

The 'ambush' strategy is typically hazardous because it's a transparent attempt to profit off goodwill around the Olympics and Paralympics without paying for the right to do so, but with the proper innovative idea, you could succeed.

Brands and Athletes

Even financing talent isn't enough, as the IOC Charter's (subsequently amended) "Rule 40" prohibits athletes from participating in advertising, or allowing their name or picture to be used for advertising reasons, during the Games, unless the advertising is for an official sponsor.

Tokyo 2020

The exact scope of the Rule 40 restriction that will apply at Tokyo 2020 will be determined after more information is released, but it is reasonable to think that the IOC will maintain significant oversight and protection, albeit to a lesser extent than in previous years.

In light of this, it's not surprising that brands are finding it tough to capitalise on the global excitement surrounding the Games without having the massive finances required to become an official sponsor. There are a few creative opportunities if you can get your head around the massive rules and regulations.

Engaging Athletes

However, you still have a chance to interact with sportsmen while staying within the rules of Rule 40. In the past, many brands have run commercials using athletes in the lead-up to the Games without mentioning the Olympics or Paralympics.

And, nearly as soon as the Games are over, athletes are up for grabs all over again. A well-timed ad campaign that begins as soon as the Rule 40 restriction is abolished could capture a significant portion of the public's attention.

Working with previous athletes or well-known figures - including influencers - can provide a brand connection to the Games, and they are exempt from Rule 40. Brands might also take a long-term risk by investing in young talent and potential stars, with the expectation that if they win a gold medal, they will benefit from the relationship.

CountryDelightNatural recently partnered with Neeraj Chopra (Gold Medalist at the Tokyo Olympic 2021) just before he headed to the games. Struck gold there, dint they??

Following the IOC’s Legalities

Respect the Rules

The best place to start is to understand what the IOC believes brands should not be allowed to do. This is clearly stated in the Tokyo Organising Committee's Brand Protection Guidelines, which is recommended to every aspiring marketer. It includes phrases like 'Tokyo 2020,' 'Olympics,' and 'Paralympics,' as well as mottos and phrases like 'Go for the gold,' 'Countdown to 202,' and so on.

These rules may go beyond the IOC's legal rights, but they clearly define the battleground. Brands should be mindful of operating too closely to them - the IOC is known for being aggressive and has already pursued targets like a London butcher for displaying a picture of five interconnected sausage rings.

Trademark and Copyrights

Brands should also be aware of standard trademark and copyright regulations, as well as “passing off” - that is, generating material that indicates a tie between a brand and the Games. While saying 'Tokyo, 2020, and Gold' separately may not be an infringement, saying them all together could be considered passing off.

Furthermore, official hashtags are frequently protected by law, and sending athletes or teams public messages of congratulations could be considered a violation of their so-called publicity rights.

Advertising Online

While advertising in Japan will be the most dangerous, those who operate online or on social media will also be at risk. Although it is true that the further your brand is from Japan and the smaller it is, the more probable you will be able to get away with it.

With the foregoing in mind, brands should search for ways to make creative use of generic elements like events, flags, and countries (rather than using trademarked team names like 'Team GB'). Basically, get people thinking about the Olympics, but not too much.

Indian Brands at the Games

The once-every-four-year summer competition has drawn sponsorship from a variety of industries. Edelweiss, INOX Group, Nippon Paint, Amul, Raymond, JSW Group, MPL Sports Foundation, and Raymond have all inked sponsorship agreements with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Oakley, Mia by Tanishq, Visa India, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Puma India, and sponsors JSW, Omega, BridgeStone, and Rin have all released advertisements for the event.

Mirabai Chanu wins silver at the Olympics

Several sponsors hurried to sign Mirabai Chanu after she won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, according to her management company, IOS Sports & Entertainment. She made history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games in weightlifting. Chanu also became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in the Women's 49 kg category at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

According to media sources, brands from a variety of sectors, including nutrition, sports, personal care, beverage, and regional brands, sought to hire the 26-year-old weightlifter as a brand ambassador for campaigns and long-term digital partnerships. Chanu has collaborated with Adidas and Mobil Oil so far. Her endorsement pay is set to climb after another silver feather in her cap.

This demonstrates how Indian brands are keen to be associated with rising sports stars and are willing to take advantage of any opportunity that will help them stay relevant.

Moment Marketing

Here's how digital marketing works: even if you create the most visually appealing, attention-getting campaign possible, it won't be effective if you send it out at the incorrect moment. You must market to your target at precisely the appropriate time if you want to make an effect. This is where the concept of moment marketing comes into play - something several brands are doing given the Olympics.

The main benefit of instant marketing is that it allows your advertisements to appear at precisely the perfect time. Because you're targeting buyers who are actively looking for products or services similar to yours, your advertising is more likely to result in conversions. This includes things like orders, transactions, phone conversations, and store visits, among other things.

Let’s talk about moment marketing and the Olympics, particularly its utilization by Indian brands below.

Moment Marketing by Amul

Done Right

However, a few firms, such as Dunzo and Amul, who have mastered the art of moment marketing, put champion Chanu's victory first and received a lot of positive feedback from their customers.


Ranging from the actual engagement a brand has with an athlete to their utilization of moment marketing, it's important to be weary of several factors and rules put in place both by the IOC, alongside the unsaid viewer expectations. Both ambush marketing and moment marketing have long been done by brands when it comes to the Olympics. However, it’s just as easy to get it extremely wrong than it is to celebrate a moment of advertising victory.

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