Confidential Advice to Members of the MA and Advertising Standards Authority

Paris Olympics - advertising restrictions

This advice aims to inform of the advertising restrictions and obligations related to the Paris Olympics, governed by the Major Events Management Act 2007 in New Zealand.

The Major Events Management Act 2007 (the Act) came into force in August 2007. It replaces certain provisions previously contained in the Flags, Emblems and Name Protection Act 1981.

Amongst other things, the Act continues the regime initially established in the Flags, Emblems and Name Protection Act, whereby there are restrictions on the use of certain Olympic and Commonwealth Games words and emblems in published advertisements.

This advice is provided to ensure MA and ASA members are aware of these restrictions and their obligations under the Act. It has been prepared using earlier advice provided to the Newspaper Publishers Association. It is a guide for members only and confidential to them. It is not intended to replace legal advice.

Advertising restrictions

It is an offence under the Act to use certain Olympic and Commonwealth Games words, names and emblems without the prior authorisation of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC).

The Olympic and Commonwealth Games words and emblems protected under the Act and are detailed in NZOC Advertising, Promotion and Social Media Guidelines. It is important to note that the prohibition extends to any abbreviation, extension or derivation of a protected name and any name that has the same of a similar meaning to a protected name.

The restrictions imposed under the Act do not extend to editorial or reporting content. Therefore, for present purposes, the key restriction relates to published / broadcast / displayed advertising features and advertisements.

Specifically, a media member should not publish / broadcast / display an advertisement that uses any word, name, title, style or designation:

  1.  that includes any emblem, name or word protected under the Act; or
  2.  that closely resembles any of those protected emblems, names or words, so as to deceive or confuse any person,

unless the advertising is from an official Olympic sponsor or has the prior written authorisation of the NZOC.

If a request is made to the NZOC for written authority for use of the emblems, words or names protected, the NZOC must make a decision within 10 working days, if it does not - authorisation can be assumed. Generally, it should be the advertiser's, and not the media’s responsibility to obtain the permission of the NZOC for an advertisement using an Olympic or Commonwealth Games word or emblem.

Consequences of breach

Publishing/broadcasting/displaying an advertisement in breach of the Act potentially exposes the media to a fine on conviction of up to $150,000. The restrictions should therefore be closely monitored.

There is an "innocent publisher" defence for media where it can show:

  1. That it is in the business of publishing/ broadcasting/ displaying or arranging for the publication/broadcast/display of advertisements; and
  2. That the advertisement was received in the ordinary course of business; and
  3. That it did not know and had no reason to suspect that the publication/broadcast/display would be in contravention of the Act.

The NZOC has been given specific powers under the Act to make an application for an injunction against any person (including media companies) that has or is likely to commit an offence against the Act. Private persons or a company may also apply for an injunction if it can show a breach or intended breach of the Act and that their or its interests will be seriously affected (for example, a Games sponsor).

Suggested steps to minimise risks

The following steps should be taken by media members to minimise potential exposure to liability for the publication/broadcast/display of any advertisements that may breach the Act:

1. Members should be familiar with the protected symbols and words in the NZOC Advertising, Promotion and Social Media Guidelines and be alert to advertisements that use these symbols and words (or abbreviations, extensions or derivations thereof).

2. Members should amend their standard forms for advertisement contracts to include a statement to the effect that where the advertisement contains names, words or emblems associated with the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, the advertiser/customer confirms that they have sought and obtained the consent of the NZOC to the extent that it is required by law. (Media members will be better able to use the "innocent publisher" defence if the above clause is incorporated in some form into their advertisement contracts)

3. If in doubt over a substantial advertisement, particularly one which is repeated as part of a national campaign, ask the advertiser/customer for written confirmation from the NZOC confirming its approval. The Act says written authorisation is required so this should not be difficult for the advertiser/customer to provide.

4. Keep all correspondence with client advertiser and NZOC on file.

5. As a general rule, greater care should be taken with advertisements that have the following features:

  • State or imply the advertiser is an official sponsor or patron of the Olympic or Commonwealth Games or otherwise has some official endorsement.
  • Clearly attempt to use the advertiser's association with the Olympic or Commonwealth Games to advance the sale of its products or services (or enhance its public Image).
  • Relate to a national or international company and involve a well-known brand.
  • Is part of a continuing or national campaign.
  • Is part of a campaign involving more than one form of media.

6. Whilst the legislation contemplates a system of notification and response to the NZOC for authority to use the names, words and emblems protected, in practice media members should leave this responsibility with advertisers. However, media members may choose to approach the NZOC to request a list of official sponsors to avoid the need to ask each advertiser/customer for this.

7. Note that specific restrictions in the Act are in addition to general restrictions and obligations relating to misleading or deceptive advertisements. These general obligations will apply in the case of advertising relating to the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and should continue to be observed.

New Zealand Olympic Committee Commercial Partners are listed here.

Information about the worldwide partners for Paris 2024 is available here.


IOC Guidelines for Editorial Use of the Olympic Properties by Media Organisations is available here.

Confidential Advice to Members of the Marketing Association and the Advertising Standards Authority