[NPR] One record expected to be broken at the London Summer Olympics is the size of its audience — an expected 4 billion people. For advertisers, that's a golden opportunity. But there are also strict rules about who can use the Olympics to promote their products.
One of those rules is known as the "blackout," a period starting Wednesday in which athletes competing in the games may not appear in any advertising by companies that are not official Olympic sponsors.
To understand what this means, consider Michael Phelps: Subway has long sponsored the Olympic swimmer, but it's not an Olympic sponsor. That means no Subway ads featuring Phelps can air between July 18 and Aug. 15. But this Head & Shoulders commercial of Phelps washing his hair is fine — Head & Shoulders is owned by Procter & Gamble, which is an Olympic sponsor.
Corporations have paid a lot of money to officially partner with the London Games. According to Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, that's why this and other rules exist.