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What Advertisers Need to Know About Employing Amateur Athletes

Both the Summer and Winter Olympics bring a big boost to advertising across all channels. Adweek reports that NBC alone is expecting another billion dollar Olympics in terms of ad sales. With the Rio Olympics taking place in August, many brands are likely planning to use amateur athletes in some of their ad campaigns. While that may seem like a great way to connect with fans of the summer games, there are important things to be aware of regarding the employment of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and other amateur athletes.

The rules are very specific and have a lasting impact on the future of young athletes long after Olympic fever has subsided.

Here is a quick overview of key points for advertisers to keep in mind. For a deeper dive, check out Extreme Reach’s full tip sheet and the International Olympic Committee’s by-laws regarding amateur athletes.

What is the NCAA and How Does It Relate to the Olympics?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the governing body for most collegiate sports, including those sports that are also events in the Olympic Games where participation is limited to amateur athletes. To be eligible to play NCAA college sports, and eventually to qualify to participate in almost all Olympic categories, an athlete must remain an amateur.

Is it okay for Amateur Athletes to be paid for commercial work?
In a word, no! The NCAA does not permit their athletes to receive any type of payment (including donations to a charity or foundation in the athlete’s name) for any use of their athletic skills. Accepting payment could mean losing the eligibility to play NCAA college sports.

What about younger athletes who plan to play high school or collegiate sports?
Younger athletes are also at risk of losing eligibility if they accept payment for an advertisement.

What’s an Athlete to do?
An amateur athlete participating in an advertisement has two choices:
— Accept payment and risk losing NCAA eligibility
— Waive compensation to protect future eligibility and retain amateur status

What’s an Advertiser to Do?
Advertisers should be sure to talk to their lawyer about a release from the athlete, parent or guardian acknowledging both an understanding of what’s at stake and an agreement to take responsibility for the consequences.

Questions about non-NCAA Amateur Athletes or Professional Athletes? Find answers here.

For more on the NCAA and IOC visit: