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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Olympians have sponsors write social media posts

Multiple reports surfaced last week that sponsors may be writing some of the Olympians social media posts, working with their managers and publicists to craft messages from the athletes’ personal accounts. Reps for figure skating darlings Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold both reported that the athletes have sponsors compose some of their tweets, as told in a story by U.S. News.

For example, Cover Girl (owned by Procter & Gamble) has been promoting pictures of Wagner on the figure skater’s personal social media accounts. Wagner has retweeted images of the skater modeling for Cover Girl, and posted an Instagram pic promoting red lipstick. Hilton Honors, a reward program for the Hotel chain, has also been mentioned on Wagner’s Twitter.

It’s no secret that the Olympics pull in an enormous amount of advertising revenue, and from countries all over the world. Large corporations that have the money to do so are wise to advertise with the Olympics. But in recent years, it’s become even easier to latch on to the Olympic brand without becoming an official sponsor. Global Language Monitor, a marketing analyst group located in Texas, released a report with Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for companies that have done the best promoting their brand at the Olympics.

Among the top leaders in advertising were Subway, P&G, Samsung, Panasonic, Coca-Cola and Rolex, even though only Coca-Cola, P&G and Samsung are listed as official sponsors under the Olympic Partner Programme. Obviously, some companies are doing well – maybe even so well that they don’t need to pay top dollar to the Olympics Committee.

Olympians aren’t the only ones who let others use their social media accounts for advertising and other promotions. Other athletes and celebrities do this as well. But advertisements from an individual’s social media account could lead to future ethical problems. How do followers know what material is promotional, and what is a truthful endorsement? In the future, how can consumers trust Wagner’s opinions if she is being paid for her answers? Wagner does include a line in her Twitter bio: “Thank You, Mom & Cover Girl,” and it is a verified account – so many Twitter views might actually believe her tweets are coming from her, instead of Cover Girl or Hilton.

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