Misplaced priorities? Rio 2016 gif ban proves how out of touch the IOC has become

So the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has placed a ban on gifs, eh? If you're not an official media partner of the Games, but your audience expects you to be covering the Games in a way that they can relate to, engage with and share, you can't if it means using any “sound or moving” images or content anywhere on your network.

Well that's just great, how very inclusive and representative of the Olympic spirit.

One of the saddest things about this news is that I wish I could say that it has come as a shock, but it hasn't. It is simply another self-inflicted blow in a string of PR disasters for the IOC. It's almost worse than the body deciding not to impose a complete ban on Russia's athletes, despite the discovery of a state-sponsored doping program.

At the time of the decision, president Thomas Bach said that banning athletes who are otherwise innocent flies in the face of what the Olympic movement stands for, which was one way of burying his head in the sand over the issue. But actively banning the sharing of moving images liked by audiences worldwide for their sense of entertainment and fun because of the IOC's commercial interests doesn't?

The Olympic Games are supposed to champion inclusivity, but what this decision from the IOC shows is that it is increasingly exclusive. The move only seeks to prove that it is out of touch with its audience and by actively prohibiting the dissipation of content in ways that audiences – especially younger audiences – engage is anti-media and risks alienating them entirely.

When you factor in the Games having already experienced electricity and plumbing problems within the athlete's designated accommodation, disasters like the collapse of the sailing ramp, fears over the Zika virus and water pollution, banning unofficially-distributed gifs makes the committee appear as though its priorities are a little misplaced.

Media rights may have been an incredibly lucrative revenue stream for the IOC in the past – making a total of $2.6bn from the past four Olympic and Winter Olympic Games – but forcing the disengagement of core and future audiences through this move (particularly audiences who don't know or care what an official media partner looks like) can only have a negative impact on the commerciality of the Games in the future, ironically.

The more tarnished the IOC becomes, the less equity it holds and the smaller the premium for official sponsors and partners moving forward.

It’s likely that Giphy gets away with using copyrighted material because other copyright holders are embracing the modern media landscape and value the sharing and engagement in their content over the restriction. The IOC should be looking to other sports events like the Premier League for lessons in how to be a friend of social media. Sky Sports holds the broadcasting rights on the football tournament, but next year the social media platform will be able share highlights and goals from matches in real-time, in the form of video clips. It will all be shared through the @SkyFootball Twitter account, but the point is that it will be actively shared.

In fact, the only slice of positive PR the IOC has had in the past year is decision to relax Rule 40, which had stopped athletes from being able to mention their own sponsors if they weren't official Olympic sponsors. Fueled in part by the number of brands trying to actively circumvent the strict rules, this move allowed brands to have a renewed appetite in being part of the Olympic conversation. But conversations happen in real-time and are free-flowing, not regimented, and gifs are a perfect way to comment freely and in real-time.

If this means of engagement and communication is banned from a conversation, then brands' collective appetites to be part of it may not last that much longer.

Jamie Buchanan is business director at BBD Perfect Storm

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