Ambush Marketing and Rule 40 for Tokyo 2020: A Shifting Landscape for Olympic Athletes and Their Sponsors


  • Steve McKelvey University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • John Grady University of South Carolina
  • Anita M. Moorman University of Louisville



Olympics, trademark enforcement, intellectual property, ambush marketing, Rule 40


This study explores the historical development of the regulatory landscape related to Olympic and Paralympic athlete marketing activities, together with current restrictions imposed on athlete marketing, and discusses potential legal challenges to these restrictions. Specifically, this study analyzed various countries’ Rule 40 Tokyo 2020 guidance through a trans-national lens by comparing and contrasting the different approaches found in various national Olympic committees’ legal frameworks to combat ambush marketing. The potential legal challenges to the United States Olympic Commititee’s enforcement of new Rule 40 guidance are highlighted, with particular focus on discussing the restrictions and enforcement rights contained within the personal sponsor commitment agreement within the United States for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games. Critical analysis of the potential impact of enforcing this agreement within the broader Olympic intellectual property and brand protection frameworks for Olympic stakeholders in the US is provided.

Author Biographies

Steve McKelvey, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Steve McKelvey, JD, is a professor and chair in the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research focuses primarily on the legal and practical application of intellectual property law issues to the sports marketing and sponsorship industry. He has researched extensively on ambush marketing.

John Grady, University of South Carolina

John Grady, JD, PhD, is a professor of sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina. His current research interests are focused primarily on legal issues in sport sponsorship, including ambush marketing strategies, Rule 40 enforcement, and intellectual property protection.

Anita M. Moorman, University of Louisville

Anita M. Moorman, JD, is a professor of sport administration at the University of Louisville. She teaches sport law and legal aspects of sport. Her research interests include the unique impact numerous Supreme Court decisions have had in the sport industry with a focus on participant rights issues in sport. She also examines contractual transactions in sport and the interplay between sport law and marketing.






Original Research