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‘Missed opportunity’: Twitter exec urges Olympic bosses to relax rules around sponsors

Twitter's Danny Keens

Twitter’s Danny Keens

Twitter’s US head of sports has called on the International Olympic Committee to loosen its strict guidelines banning athletes from social media to promote companies which are not official sponsors ahead of the Rio games.

Australian Danny Keens, a former producer of 60 Minutes who has been head of US sports partnerships for the social network for the last 18-months, told an audience at SXSW in Austin, Texas, current rules denied athletes from smaller sports the chance to cash in.

Asked about the future of social media for brands which are not official sponsors Keens said: “It’s a huge missed opportunity not to allow athletes to use Twitter. For a lot of these athletes from smaller sports it’s their moment in the sun and it’s their one opportunity to monetise what they’ve been passionate about.

“These are not professional athletes and the IOC get that.”

But Keens also pointed to the fact the IOC needs to get better at engaging on social media platforms to ensure there is a large audience for the brand into the future.

Rio Olympics official logo“One of the interesting conversations we’ve had with them is that more so than ever coming out of Rio they need to have a highly engaged millennial audience,” he said. “Because they do the rights deals so far in advance – we’re talking a decade in some cases – they need to be sure there’s still an audience there then.

“There’s definitely been a shift in their thinking about how we’re going to approach Rio and we’re going to have some great things to announce.”

But he also acknowledged the social platform had a fine line to tread when it came to pushing boundaries because it is reliant on co-operation from broadcasters and bodies like the IOC to make the most of big flagship events.

Keens added: “One of the caveats they’ll put around us is there are partners who pay millions of dollars for the rights and ultimately you have to be as respectful as possible.

“Twitter doesn’t make content or buy content but it’s the beating heart of the platform and what users come back for every day.

“The moment that we’re disrespectful to our broadcast partners who’ve paid billions of dollars for their content we won’t get invited in as they’ll see us as a disruptor and what we want to be seen as is the ultimate complement to them.”

Related: Ambush marketing and the Rio Olympics

Alex Hayes in Austin

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