During Rule 40 Blackout, Emma Coburn Showcases New Balance on Olympic Stage

Emma Coburn appreciates her support crew, and she showed it after she earned her Olympic bronze medal in Rio.

After crossing the finish line in third behind Ruth Jebet and Hyvin Jepkemoi, respectively, Coburn immediately removed her New Balance spikes and draped them over her shoulder before carrying the American flag. As a result of the bold move, thousands of photos snapped during her victory lap included her sponsor, New Balance, which otherwise would not have been featured.

It's more than likely that Coburn, who is vocal about sponsorship rights, did this intentionally to spotlight New Balance in the middle of the Rule 40 "blackout period" and circumvent Nike's exclusive sponsorship rights with USATF.

According to USATF's statement of conditions for the U.S. national team, athletes are required to wear the designated Nike-issued team uniform provided by USATF during the entire duration of the Olympic Games. USATF distinguishes "uniform items" as "under-layer apparel, bandanas, headbands, hats, sweatbands, wristbands, socks, sports bras, travel bags, etc., but shall specifically exclude sunglasses, watches, and shoes."

USATF's statement of conditions also mandates that athletes agree to the following condition:
"I understand that I am forbidden from (i) altering, distorting, removing, or covering up the sponsor logo on any Team uniform items in any photographs, videos or other images of me."

According to these guidelines, it appears that Coburn followed the rules while also finding a way to feature her own sponsor.

New Balance signed Coburn after she graduated from Colorado three years ago, and has since supported her while she climbed to the top of the American record books.

nullBut during the Olympic Games, New Balance and Coburn cannot advertise or promote each other. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a non-sponsor marketing blackout period mandated by Rule 40, which enforces restrictions around what athletes and sponsors can say during the Olympic period.

To advertise during the blackout, non-Olympic sponsors must submit a waiver in January with a marketing campaign plan, including a social media plan that cannot include any Olympic-specific intellectual property -- images like the Olympic rings, and even words like "Rio," "Olympics," and "medal." The company's marketing campaign plan must be approved by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in order to run during the blackout period.

Any company that does not submit an application or fails to secure approval from the USOC will not be able to promote the athletes they sponsor during the biggest championship in the sport.

As part of the U.S. Olympic team, Coburn is required to wear the Nike-issued Team USA uniform and warm-up apparel. Spikes, watch and sunglasses are the only pieces of non-Nike apparel she could wear during competition.

Prior to the blackout period, Coburn was vocal about her appreciation for New Balance's support, and noted she wouldn't be able to acknowledge her sponsor for several weeks.

Three weeks after the start of the blackout period, Coburn earned an Olympic bronze medal in the steeplechase -- the first ever for an American woman.

And Coburn made sure New Balance was there with her on the biggest stage in track and field.

Coburn's decision to take her spikes off, tie them together, and hang them around her shoulder allowed hundreds of photographers to capture a monumental moment shared with the company that helped get her there.

Even after the race Coburn reportedly mentioned New Balance in the post-race press conference, which according to the Rule 40 guidelines, she isn't allowed to do. Athletes are not allowed to mention a sponsor that is not an official Olympic sponsor in any press interview or social media post during the blackout. Luckily, Coburn caught herself.

Despite the restrictive nature of advertising around the Olympic Games, Coburn found a brilliant way to thank her support crew.

Image Map

Mixed Gender Relay, Pink Track & All The Other Unique Parts Of World Champs

Sometime around 2:10 AM on September 28th, I will be standing on a Middle Eastern waterfront watching a marathon finish.  

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

FloTrack Predicts Team USA's Relay Line-Ups

Based on the announced relay pools, here's who we think Team USA should line-up in Doha for the relay prelims and finals. 2019 season's best listed in parentheses.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The 10 Most Important People At The 2019 World Championships

The 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, are 11 days away. We’ve weathered the longest track season ever and now all eyes turn to the Qatari capital as the first-ever Middle Eastern host of a track and field global championship. From the air-conditioned track and pink surface to the midnight marathon, there will be plenty that makes this year’s marquee event completely different from anything that’s ever come before it.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

USATF Announces Roster For 2019 IAAF World Championships

On Monday, USA Track and Field released their roster for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on September 27-October 6.

Geoffrey Kamworor Smashes Half Marathon WR With 58:01

Three-time half marathon world champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya is the new half marathon world record holder after the 26-year-old smashed the old mark by 17 seconds on Sunday with his 58:01 run in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A Perfect Storm: The Story Behind Woody Kincaid's Stunning 12:58

As an intimate crowd of familiar faces hovered around the Michael Johnson Track on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, on Tuesday night, Woody Kincaid faced an ultimatum. 

Former NCAA 800m Champ Emmanuel Korir To Attempt 400m/800m Double

Today Kenya announced their World Championship team for Doha later this month. One notable highlight was the selection of former NCAA 800m champion Emmanuel Korir in the 400m dash. Korir qualified for the 800m team after finishing second at the Kenyan trials, he was also selected to the 400m team due to his 44.55 performance at Kenya’s African Games trials back in June.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Will A World Record Be Broken At The World Championships?

Last month, Lincoln diagnosed the chase for world records across track and field. In his post, he argued that there was least a semblance of a chance for broken records in 11 different events. Now, two weeks before the World Championships, I updated that forecast heading into the final meet of the season. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

2019 FloTrack TV Guide

Searching for that perfect post-long-run-and-chill content? 

Christian Coleman Responds To USADA Dropping Case: 'I Think It's A Shame'

Christian Coleman spoke publicly for the first time since the U.S. Anti Doping Agency dropped their case against the sprint star last week.