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Olympians Try to Cash In Hawking Cereal, Detergent to Millions of New Instagram Followers

  • Rule 40 change lets athletes post personal sponsorship content
  • Agents say change still too restrictive on athletes’ freedom
Simone Biles during the women’s balance beam final at the Ariake Gymnastics Center in Tokyo, on Aug. 3.
Simone Biles during the women’s balance beam final at the Ariake Gymnastics Center in Tokyo, on Aug. 3.Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg
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Olympians are taking advantage of a sponsorship rule change which lets them capitalize on their social-media followings to promote items such as sports wear and washing detergent during the Tokyo Olympics, but agents say that the complexity of the new guidelines and the International Olympic Committee’s continuing control still prevents athletes from fully realizing their earning potential.

Athletes had until now been prohibited from engaging in personal sponsor promotion during the Olympics, but a change in 2019 by the IOC to a guideline known as Rule 40 has opened the doors for them to post sponsored content and generate another revenue stream. That’s enabled athletes such as Portuguese triple jumper Patricia Mamona to tout cereal made by Nestle SA and Taiwanese weightlifter Hsing-chun Kuo to promote telecommunications provider Taiwan Mobile Co Ltd. on their Instagram accounts.