By: Suzanne Buzek

You know that really big, multi-sport, highly-broadcasted event that happens once every four years in the summer (and once every four years in the winter)?

The name of that event is not public domain. Nor its nicknames or phrases that reference the location of this event.

I set out writing a blog post about this event with the intent to spark a discussion in the local marketing community about our favorite ads during these few weeks, interesting co- or cross-branding executions, crisis communications, localized marketing examples, ROI, and more. My excitement, however, was quickly deflated upon commencing research. It turns out that the average social media drone individual can tweet all day about his or her favorite athletes, commercials, accomplishments or failures. On the contrary, AMA Cincinnati, the professional organization, as well as non-sponsoring businesses in general, is highly confined, especially when it comes to content and social media.

Similar to how we can’t call that one huge football event in February will a star-studded halftime show by it’s real name, the International Olympics Committee has encouraged all participating countries to implement laws to protect trademarks. For reference, here’s the article detailing important legal stuff. And here’s an article with the trademarked words and phrases that are off-limits.

This is where I would place the logo of what I'm writing about. But that's off limits, too.

This is where I would place the logo of what I’m writing about. But that’s off limits, too.

I’m disappointed, to say the least. Jane Austen novels are public domain, but an international sporting event with centuries-long tradition is not?! This event could provide a graduate-level courseload of marketing case studies and topics to explore, but non-sponsoring businesses and associations are deprived of participating in a convenient, accessible way.

But the trade-off is the dream of most marketers: exclusive access. Sponsors pay a lot of money for special privileges with this event when it comes to marketing, communications, branding and more. And even then, there are strict rules to follow. These rules imply the prestige of the coveted sponsor status and the incredible value to those sponsors for those exclusive privileges.

So what does this mean for your business? While it is tempting to jump in a discussion or leverage these weeks as the newspeg for content or social media fodder, tread very carefully. Or just make sure you’re logged out of the company’s social media accounts. If the Pope can get publicly shamed, your business could, too. Stay informed, and be open with colleagues, leadership or clients if this topic comes up.

While writing the equivalent of a Catchphrase round has been a fun creative challenge (“three syllables, rhymes with ….”) I’ll leave the marketing thought leadership to the risk-averse folks (or the sponsors) and enjoy my pursuit of things that are actually public domain, like Pride and Prejudice.

© 2016 AMA Cincinnati. All rights reserved.