RUNNING MAN: Blake competing on the track in London.
Sprinter Yohan 'The Beast' Blake is the latest athlete in London under scrutiny by the Olympic branding police after he wore a special Richard Mille tourbillon watch during his silver-medal run in the 100M final on Sunday. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it will look into reports that Blake's wristwatch might violate sponsorship rules that ban athletes from brandishing the logos of non-official Olympic sponsors. Companies such as Visa, Adidas, McDonald's and Coca-Cola have reportedly paid up to $100 million each to be Olympic sponsors and benefit from their official association with the Games.
The IOC has been resolute in defending its brand and merchandising rights, but for London 2012, the British Parliament passed a special Olympic law giving organizers the right to bring court action for violation of branding rules – with fines of up to US$31,000 (£20,000) for infractions. The IOC argues the enforcement is necessary to protect the Olympic brand (which consultants Brand Finance have evaluated is worth up to $45 billion) and ensure commercial revenue generated by sponsors can be used to fund sporting activities year-round.
In addition to monitoring on-air infringements, the IOC has been active online, banning athletes' tweets and posts to social media sites that mention any non-official brands. But Olympic athletes like 400-metre gold medal winner Sanya Richards-Ross and others have lashed out at Rule 40, writing under Twitter hashtags #wedemandchange and #rule40 to criticize the IOC restrictions, which they say hurt amateur athletes.
“Only 2 percent of U.S. athletes are able to tweet about their sponsors because only 2 percent of U.S. athletes have USOC or IOC sponsors," Richards-Ross said at a press conference in London following her 400-metre win. "So that leaves out 98 percent of my peers. And so we are disgruntled about that."