Can You Build a Business Email Marketing Campaign Around the Winter Olympics?

January 11, 2018 Rieva Lesonsky

The 2018 Winter Olympics are almost here. This year, the Games take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from February 9 to February 25. For small business owners, this can provide an opportunity to harness the power and buzz of the Olympic spirit to infuse your business email marketing this month and next.

If you're looking for a way to capture some of the excitement and energy of the Olympics in your small business’s marketing outreach, however, it's important to know that there are strict rules regarding business use of the International Olympics Committee (IOC)’s intellectual property (IP), including copyrighted or trademarked phrases and logos. Use of Olympic IP for marketing purposes is generally limited to official Olympic sponsors, suppliers and licensees. Here's what you need to know to create an effective business email marketing campaign while staying within the rules.

Words: In addition to obvious terms like "Olympics" or "Team USA," the IOC has trademarked many Olympics-related phrases, such as "Go for the gold” and "Let the games begin.” It also prohibits creating your own "Olympic" terms; for example, if you own an auto parts website, you couldn't use the term "Autolympics” in your marketing.

Logos: A business cannot use the Olympics' official ring logo for marketing purposes; nor can you create your own version of the logo. For instance, a music store couldn't copy the idea of the ring logo using records or CDs.

Social Media: The IOC is especially strict regarding use of Olympics-related content on social media. Unless you are an official sponsor, supplier or licensee of the Games, not only do the rules above apply, but your business is also prohibited from using any hashtags that include trademarked Olympics terms; sharing photos of the Olympics; or even congratulating the Olympians or wishing them good luck.

If you break any of these rules, you may receive a cease-and-desist letter from the IOC. Unlike social media, print advertising and digital marketing, an email sent to your businesses' email list is not open to the public, so you're less likely to attract the attention of the IOC. However, you should still be equally cautious while crafting your email marketing campaign.

How can you get around the regulations and still celebrate the Olympics in your email marketing campaign?

  • Be sure to send your marketing emails from a business email address rather than a personal one. An email address such as "" looks much more official and trustworthy than an email coming from latter may appear to be spam or phishing.
  • Be creative. Instead of specifically referencing the Olympics, how about tying your email into the current sport that's dominating Olympic viewers' attention? (Just be sure not to mention any Olympic athletes.)
  • Make it timely. You can also relate your business email marketing to an Olympics incident that's generating a lot of buzz. For instance, if one of the USA ski team competitors broke a ski during an event, your sporting goods store could promote something like, "Is your winter sports equipment ready for ski season? We’re offering 50% off ski maintenance for the next week."

When in doubt, be sure to check the IOC’s detailed brand usage guidelines for the Olympics before crafting your business email marketing message. Look at the section titled "Commercial."



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