Twitter distances itself from Olympic ambushers

Twitter has defended its decision to not assist Olympic chiefs in cracking down on ambush marketers during the Games, a defence that comes days after the micro-blogging site was used by Dr Dre’s headphone brand to circumvent London 2012 branding laws.


Olympians including Team GB athletes Jack Butland and Laura Robson tweeted about the brand last week (31 July) after receiving a pair of headphones in the run up to their events.

The campaign emerged as dozens of athletes launched a Twitter protest against the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Rule 40, which forbids competitors from mentioning their own sponsors during an Olympics.

Speaking at the Havas Sports and Entertainment House last Thursday (2 August) Lewis Wiltshire, head of sports partnerships at Twitter said that the flurry of guerrilla marketing activity around the Games was not its priority and that the focus should be on how athletes now feel “empowered” when using social media.

He adds: “We’re not enforcing the branding rules from the IOC. Our main focus is to be neutral. I don’t think the [controversy] has changed our policies or the way we approach policing the content on Twitter. It’s more important to look at how athletes feel empowered to tweet and use social media when talking to their followers.”

Despite its stance, Twitter is not selling promoted tweets to non-sponsors using games-related tags such as #London2012.

The statement was echoed by Facebook and Youtube during the same event. Kristin Thayer, head of platform partnerships at Facebook said “it’s up to the IOC and Locog to police” their own branding laws. She added that the committees should work closer with athletes to ensure they abide by the guidelines.

YouTube said “It is not for us to be the arbiter of who owns what kind of media.”

Industry experts have observed that the IOC, Locog and sponsor brands need to provide athletes with better training on how to use social media ahead of the next Games in Rio.

The comments come as the IOC said it has “no regrets” about embracing social media for what some are calling the first ‘Twitter Games’, despite two athletes having been expelled for tweets and others being abused online.