Getting max sponsorship value out of every branded post

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games (in 2021) begin in 2 days. The athletes are in Tokyo and ready to compete. Your partnerships are set and your athletes have more ability to promote your brand now than in any Games in the past thanks to Rule 40 changes. But, even with those changes, you may only get ONE “thank you” post from each partner. Do you know how to maximize it while staying within the rules?

Content – What’s Allowed for Non-Olympic Partners?

Rule 40 has very specific guidelines that athletes and brands need to follow in order to stay compliant. Here is a handy guide with all the nitty gritty details, but the basics are these:

  1. One post per non-Olympic partner
    This post can be across multiple platforms, but must be the same post all posted at once. Thus, as a non-Olympic partner, you are limited to one post promoting your brand from each athlete partner during the Games. Work with your athletes to make the most of it!
  2. The athlete is not allowed to endorse a specific product.
    Example (Not Allowed): Brand X’s Product Y had me ready to perform!
    Explanation: This suggests that Product Y was the reason for the athlete’s success. Even if true, this promotion is not allowed during the Games Period.
  3. No Olympic Property logos
    Example (Not Allowed): Big shoutout to Brand X for helping me on the Road to Tokyo!
    Explanation: Even the suggestion of being related to the games (like “Road to Tokyo”) is not allowed for non-Olympic partners.
  4. No National Team Uniforms
    Example (Not Allowed):
    Text: Thanks for the continued support Brand X!
    Image: Athlete in Olympic / National Team uniform or with Olympic medal
    Explanation: Similar to #2, any association with the Olympics or governing bodies is not allowed for non-Olympic sponsors during the Games Period.

Content – Maximizing Brand Exposure

In the one “thank you” post that your brand does get, make sure that the content is optimized to showcase your brand’s partnership and support of that athlete. While authentic content from the athlete is always ideal, coaching your partners on how to best position your brand could make a major impact in the sponsorship value AAV received during the Games. Here are a few tips to work with your athletes on:

  1. Exclusivity: Tag your brand only.
    Athletes tend to thank multiple sponsors in one post. This reduces the impact for all sponsors involved in that post and will significantly reduce Promotion Quality, a key factor in calculating sponsorship value. 
  2. Visual: Include your brand logo
    This helps solidify the connection between your brand and the athlete. Because they can’t wear the national team uniform, one way to naturally include your brand logo is to have them wear it on a branded shirt. Logo is important because not everyone scrolling their feed will stop to read the caption or look at the tags, but the logo will appear in the image / video post.
  3. Videos: Video posts maximize engagement
    Typically, video content receives more engagement than images or text posts. Also, a video of an athlete saying thank you to your brand can feel more authentic and relatable to fans.

Posting – Which Platform(s) To Post To

Platform strategy is key when it comes to maximizing value from a single post. If an athlete has 98% of their followers and engagement on Instagram but posts your brand’s thank you to their Twitter, you’ve just missed a huge opportunity. Ideally, the athlete would cross-post on ALL their social channels for the one thank you post. However, if you can’t convince them to do that, here are a few best practices to maximize impact of the ONE post your brand gets from each athlete partner:

  1. Identify which platform gets the most engagement for that athlete
    This goes beyond knowing how many followers they have per platform. Perhaps they have the same amount of followers on Facebook and Instagram, but their engagement rate is 3x higher on Instagram. That factor alone can drive significantly more sponsorship value for your brand.
  2. Know their audience on each platform
    Ideally, you built your athlete partner portfolio with specific brand goals in mind. One of these likely was reaching a specific target consumer. If your athlete reaches that consumer on one platform more than others, that is probably the platform to focus on. Below we have an example of one Olympic athlete who reaches different audiences on Instagram and Facebook than she does on Twitter. See the screenshot below from her Hookit audience report:

Figure 1 (above): This Olympian’s audience breakdown on Twitter. 72% Male, 28% Female. 42% aged 25-34.

Figure 2 (below): This Olympian’s audience breakdown on Instagram & Facebook. 83% Male, 17% Female. 27% aged 18-24.

For brands looking to reach a younger, male audience, encourage this athlete to post their one thank you post to your brand on Instagram and Facebook.

Posting – Platform Comparison

If you have to select one platform for the athlete to post about your brand on, knowing the data on their specific audience and engagement per platform is key. In addition, here are a few key stats about the various social media platforms.

  • Platform with most average followers per athlete: Facebook
    Yep, the tried and true platform wins this one among Olympic qualified and potential athletes with athletes averaging 640k followers on Facebook. Instagram is not far behind at 614k.
  • Platform that generates the most engagement (likes, comments, shares, video views): Instagram
    Athletes thrive on Instagram. It’s the perfect platform for most athletes to showcase a variety of content, from performance highlights to training to family and personality. In 2021 before the Games, athletes saw 5x more fan engagement on Instagram than any other social media platform.
  • Platform with highest fan engagement rate: TikTok
    It may be the newest, but fans watch, like, comment, and engage with TikTok videos at a rate 240x higher than they do on Instagram. If your athlete partners are on TikTok, this could be a great opportunity to work with them on including your brand into their TikTok posts.
  • Platform with the highest average Promotion Quality: Instagram
    The curation of Instagram posts leads to a higher average quality of branding than other platforms. However, great branded posts can happen on any platform with a little coaching.
  • Platform with highest Sponsorship Value AAV per follower: TikTok & Instagram [Tie!]
    While more athletes have Instagram accounts and thus significantly more total followers on Instagram, the fan engagement on these two platforms leads to 2x more sponsorship value per follower than the next best platforms, Facebook and YouTube.

Key Takeaways

  • Follow Rule 40 to make sure your athlete doesn’t get disqualified from competition
  • Athletes are only allowed to promote non-Olympic partners in ONE thank you post – make it count! 
    • Caveat, the athletes can post the same single post across various social media platforms at the same time, so make sure they do that!
  • Ask for exclusivity in that post. With only one post during the Games period, make it count by maximizing promotion quality for your brand. Encourage the athletes to not include any other brand partners in the thank you post for your brand.
  • If the athlete will only post to one platform, make sure they post it to their most engaging platform. Hint: this is probably Instagram or TikTok, but get the data to know for sure.


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