The first rule about Olympics marketing is that you can’t talk about the Olympics in your marketing—unless, of course, you’re an official sponsor. That’s right, only the brands who shell out the $100-200 million for sponsorships are allowed to mention the big games in their marketing efforts. This means, no matter how small your business, you’re not allowed to create posts that say “Rio 2016” or even “Gold Medal” on your company’s Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.

We can all thank Nike and a $30,000 pair of gold-colored lightweight racing spikes for these strict marketing rules.

According to the AdWeek article, How Nike Brilliantly Ruined Olympic Marketing Forever, on July 29, 1996 Nike tried some ambush marketing tactics. The “Just do it” company was not an official sponsor of the Olympics that year (but Reebok was—more on this in a bit). Rather than shell out the money to become a sponsor, Nike invested in sprinter Michael Johnson and gave him the infamous golden Nike shoes to wear on the day of the big race. Johnson went on to win the gold, and then, suddenly, those racing spikes bearing Nike’s logo were everywhere. It wasn’t even an official sponsor, yet Nike made it to the top of the winner’s podium.

Of course, this resulted in backlash with the companies—specifically, Reebok—who did invest millions in a sponsorship. The U.S. Olympic Committee was forced to crack down and now has ironclad regulations and rules to how brands and companies can—and cannot—use their trademarks.

So, while you can no longer make direct mention of the games in your marketing materials, there are ways around it. Many companies choose to highlight certain players or allude to the games without using an explicit mention. If you’re looking for some brilliant, outside-of-the-box examples, this article will give you plenty of ideas to think through while we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

If you need a marketing resource to help you go for the gol—*ahem*, gusto, then call us. Our talent can help you navigate tricky marketing situations and find new ways to promote your brand.