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U.S. Rule 40 Education : FAQ


Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter is an athlete eligibility rule introduced in 1991 for the purpose of protecting the unique and universal competitive environment offered by the Olympic Games, as well as maintaining the long-term health of the Olympic Movement. The value of corporate sponsorship, and the rights of partners to market their association with the Games and the Olympic Movement helps support broad Games participation for competitors. Similarly, competing in the Games is a unique opportunity and protecting an environment free from overt commercialization has long been a goal of the International Olympic Committee.
At the international level, IOC funding is central to supporting the opportunities for athletes around the world to train for and participate in the Olympic Games. No two National Olympic Committees or National Paralympic Committees (NOC/NPC) are the same but, in many cases, the funds distributed globally by the IOC are the only source of athlete support available. Partner marketing and broadcast agreements are critically important to funding that broad athlete support.
The USOPC is one of the only privately funded NOC/NPCs in the world and does not receive any financial support from the federal government. Team USA is funded through corporate sponsorship, individual donors and broadcast rights relationships. In the United States that support represents more than 50% of total USOPC revenue over a Games quad (4-year cycle) and goes to funding sports medicine, sports psychology, high performance, coaching, Games operations, and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center functions among many other resources that benefit all of Team USA.
Rule 40 applies to all Games participants (including officials, coaches, etc.) as defined by the IOC. The Olympic Rule 40 period begins July 13, 2021, and runs through August 10, 2021. The Paralympic Rule 40 period begins August 17, 2021, and runs through September 8, 2021.
While not called Rule 40, there is a similar rule in the International Paralympic Committee’s Paralympic Handbook that governs participants in the Paralympic Games. While governed respectively by the IPC and IOC, references to the Rule 40 guidance here are intended to include athlete marketing and reflective of both the Olympic rule and the Paralympic rule. Paralympic Games Period: August 17, 2021 to September 8, 2021.

The full updated USOPC domestic Rule 40 guidance can be found at and offers specific information, but the primary changes for each of the user groups are below:

Team USA Athletes gain:

  • Increased opportunity to honor existing and engage new personal sponsors
  • Less restrictive timelines for aligning with personal sponsor and creative execution
  • Ability to recognize personal sponsors during the Games period
  • Ability to be recognized by personal sponsors during the Games period
  • Streamlined permission process with improved clarity on sponsor responsibility and compliance
  • Shared responsibility with personal sponsors; previously the responsibility was on the athlete alone

IOC/USOPC Partners gain and maintain:

  • Increased ambush protection through the Personal Sponsor Commitment
  • Enhanced education and enforcement efforts
  • Exclusivity around Team USA and Games marks and imagery
  • Exemption from registration; continuance of all existing partner benefits related to timing and support of USOPC partner staff
  • Ability to include more than one athlete in a single campaign
Personal Sponsor Commitments (PSCs) previously completed in this system will be extended to the new 2021 Rule 40 period. The USOPC will reach out to all companies who completed PSCs in 2020 to (1) verify if they still intend to run any campaigns with Tokyo participants during the Rule 40 period in 2021, and (2) if the details entered in each PSC still accurately reflect campaign plans for 2021.

The USOPC will release Rule 40 domestic guidance for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Beijing 2022 after the Tokyo Games.

At the International Athletes’ Forum held in April of 2019, IOC President Bach encouraged athletes and National Olympic Committees to work together to create balanced opportunities for competitors, while strengthening Olympic and Paralympic marketing globally. With that direction, over the last four months, the USOPC worked collaboratively with their Athletes’ Advisory Council, the national sport federations, USOPP, the IOC, broadcast and marketing partners (domestic and global), several National Olympic Committees, and both currently competing and retired athletes to gain perspective and consensus on Rule 40 guidance for the Tokyo 2020 Games period. USOPC intent was to create a balanced approach that created greater opportunities for athletes and reinforced and maintained the important role official partners play in the Movement.
Every NOC is asked to apply Rule 40 guidance in their domestic territory as they see fit. This updated USOPC guidance is unique to the U.S. market and specifically honors the opportunity for Team USA athletes to secure personal sponsorship to support their training and competition.

For all campaigns running in markets outside the U.S., athlete personal sponsors must notify the IOC of their non-U.S. generic advertising plans by no later than May 15, 2021 through:


The full process is explained at but, put simply, we are introducing a two-step process that creates shared responsibility among personal sponsors and athletes. This is accomplished through a contractual mechanism for enforcement that will protect Games and Team USA sponsors – while allowing for advance personal sponsor education and a more streamlined approach to athlete marketing in the United States.

Steps for Athletes : Athletes will notify the USOPC of their personal sponsors by registering them through our online portal. This registration can happen at any time before, or during, the Rule 40 period defined above as long as it precedes any athlete marketing during the Games. As always, personal sponsors are responsible for obtaining athlete consent for all uses of name, likeness or image.

Steps for Personal Sponsors : Once registered, each personal sponsor identified by an athlete will receive a link to a click-through Personal Sponsor Commitment that requires compliance with this guidance. Rule 40 permission will be issued upon successfully completing the click-through Personal Sponsor Commitment. If a personal sponsor has not completed the Personal Sponsor Commitment, it will not be granted permission and is not permitted to market an athlete in the United States during the Rule 40 period.

The Personal Sponsor Commitment (PSC) is a contractual agreement between the USOPC and the athlete personal sponsor designated by the Team USA athlete seeking permission. Whereas ambush tactics in the past were generally addressed after they occurred, the PSC will require athlete personal sponsors to acknowledge participation guidelines in advance of athlete promotion during the Games period.
No. That previous requirement has been changed in the updated guidance, with the PSC – and the understanding of the guidelines and restrictions related to protected IP – taking the place of full, advance campaign review. USOPC marketing staff is, however, willing to review materials if questions arise.
Yes. We understand that athletes are very busy and often rely on representatives to manage marketing relationships on their behalf. Please note, however, that the athlete will ultimately have to confirm the relationship with a personal sponsor before permission is granted.


Yes. Unlike previous Games, the guidance has been updated to allow athletes to thank their personal sponsors on social media a total of seven (7) times during the Games period. The message must be generic in that it must not include games imagery, protected IP or product references.
Seven is equal to the average number of competition days for each athlete at Tokyo 2020, and a number that doesn’t unfairly hurt or benefit Team USA athletes regardless of their sport discipline or success in competition.
Yes. Unlike previous Games, the guidance has been updated to allow personal sponsors to congratulate athletes on their performance on social media during the Games period. The message must be generic in that it must not include games imagery, protected IP or product references and the number is limited to one (1) post during the Games period.
Personal sponsors may retweet or repost a single athlete thank you on the original social media channel, without further text or edits, during the Games period. Additionally, personal sponsors are not allowed to use paid advertising to support retweets or reposts of athlete thank you messages.
This is covered in the guidance in full (with examples) but at its core, generic means that the advertising may not imply an association with the Games or Team USA. For that reason, there can be no use of Games marks or imagery, and product references.


The updated guidance affords Team USA partners all of the privileges they have previously enjoyed – including the use of protected IP and the support of USOPC marketing staff as they plan for and create campaigns. Additionally, this guidance goes further than previous versions in educating both athletes and personal sponsors about protected IP and exclusivity, formalizing the responsibility of those parties for their actions, as well as increasing monitoring for ambush in real time.
Team USA and IOC partners are able to receive unlimited athlete thank you messages and post unlimited congratulatory messages.
The Olympic IP is reserved for official partners, for use in global campaigns that celebrate their support of the full Olympic Movement and the hosting of the Olympic Games. Team USA IP is reserved for USOPC partners, and the value of that exclusivity helps to support all of Team USA. Please see the Rule 40 overview in this document for more information.
As explained above, the marketing rights reserved for USOPC and IOC partners provide a critical resource for the Olympic and Paralympic movements - domestically and globally.


Each case will be evaluated individually, but the USOPC is committed to educating all parties on the intent and implementation of the rule in advance to avoid issues during the Games. Importantly, while personal sponsors are now being asked to formalize their understanding/acceptance of the guidance terms and are responsible for their actions in the marketplace, athletes remain bound to IOC eligibility requirements for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.


This 2020 guidance is an evolution of Rule 40 and the expectation is that it can positively impact athlete opportunity without adversely impacting the important role of official partners. It will be evaluated, as is the standard process, following the Games and that evaluation will help to inform future guidance.


Athletes will need permission from the domestic NOC or NPC in the region where the advertising will take place. The USOPC can assist in providing approval for use of a Team USA athlete’s image and/or likeness for advertising purposes outside of the U.S. or obtaining the approval of another NOC or NPC to use a non-Team USA athlete’s image for advertising purposes in the United States during the Rule 40 period. Please send inquiries to


The USOPC is here to help ensure this process is clear and manageable for Team USA athletes and have developed a comprehensive Rule 40 guide, support and education process for this purpose. Please find information below.

Education Sessions: We will offer athlete education sessions where we can directly answer questions and offer additional information about the updated guidance: Click here to register.

Athlete Ombudsman: Team USA athletes should contact the office of the athlete ombudsman for cost-free, confidential, independent advice regarding athlete rights or responsibilities related to marketing, questions related to participation in protected competition, or any other rule, policy, process or athlete agreement. Phone: (719) 866-5000 Email: Website:

USOPC Athlete Marketing Support: Team USA athletes with questions about the Rule 40 permission process or athlete marketing in general should contact USOPC marketing at

Personal Sponsors with questions: Athlete personal sponsors should contact the USOPC commercial team with any questions at Personal sponsors with Rule 40 permission are invited, but not required, to submit proposed generic advertising and proposed athlete-focused advertising for review and comment for conformance with this guidance.