It’s officially 100 days before the much-anticipated Tokyo Olympics and Peloton is sprinting to the finish line with a new campaign. While the ever-popular fitness brand is not a sponsor of the games, it’s tapping into the marketing momentum of the Olympics, which were delayed a year because of COVID-19, with a push that stars nine current and former Olympians and Paralympians.
The campaign features runner Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man and Olympic gold medalist; world record holders Allyson Felix and Scout Bassett; track and field champion Andre De Grasse; surfer John John Florence; swimmer Kathleen Baker; gymnasts Becky Downie and Ellie Downie; and tennis champion Angelique Kerber. All will star in an anthem film, released today on Peloton's social channels and its company blog. In late April, the campaign will run on other digital channels and TV in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Beyond the film, the athletes will work with Peloton in a broader marketing capacity by recommending their favorite song playlists or offering training advice to Peloton members.
Under Rule 40, Olympic athletes have traditionally been barred from appearing in ads from non-Olympic sponsors during a period beginning several days before opening ceremonies and lasting until well after the last events. In recent years, however, restrictions have changed slightly to make it easier for such non-sponsoring brands to still run campaigns during the games. The rules were loosened again last November, allowing Olympian and Paralympians hopefuls the ability to cut their own ad deals with Olympics sponsors outside of the purview of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
However there are still many restrictions, including the prevention of non-Olympic sponsors to frame any marketing with the word “Olympics.”
“The modification to Rule 40 doesn’t give advertisers carte blanche to use athletes in advertising any way they wish,” says Linda Goldstein, a partner at BakerHostetler and co-leader of the firm’s advertising, marketing and digital media team. “It has to follow guidance under Rule 40 about the kinds of advertising that’s permissible.”
She notes that she expects more campaigns like Peloton’s that feature Olympians to continue in the coming weeks. “There’s always been a tremendous amount of ambush marketing around the Olympics,” Goldstein says, noting that marketing around the games may increase with new rule loosening “because it will give the athletes more ability to leverage their athletic success for endorsement deals with brands.”
Nike, a rival to Peloton in fitness apparel, is an official Olympics sponsor and will be able to market around the games without any restrictions.