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IAAF’s sponsorship regulations from the medieval age

October 22, 2015

When I was a kid restaurants had smoking sections where people could puff away on their cigarettes indoors. The non-smoking section was typically separated by an imaginary line which meant everyone smelled like an ashtray at the end of their meal. In my opinion it was inevitable that they would eventually ban smoking completely in restaurants. It was the same with same-sex marriage. We knew that the correct policy would be put into place where everyone would have the same right to marry. The crazy thing is that there were people lobbying against moving forward.

In athletics there are advertising rules that need to be adhered to at certain levels of competition. I’m specifically referring to the regulations on logo size and the number of logos athletes can have on competition gear at IAAF sanctioned events. In my mind it’s inevitable that the IAAF will someday enter the 21st century and do away with such regulations. Or, at the very least, amend them to reflect the current state of marketing in sport.

The regulations document can be found HERE and are really specific, take section 3.1.8 for example:

Flower and Award Ribbons

If awards or flowers are given to Athletes, the name/Logo of the Supplier of the flowers or the name/Logo of up to 2 Sponsors may be displayed on both sides of the two ribbons which may be attached to such flowers. The maximum height of each individual such display shall be 5cm.

I’m not actually concerned with the flowers. My main sticking point with all the regulations is that athletes can only have one company logo on their singlet, with a maximum size of 30cm2. As well as one club logo on the front, with a slightly bigger size restriction of 40cm2.

Limiting the size and amount of logos on our competition gear limits the amount of advertising we can promote and hence the amount of sponsorship dollars we can earn. It’s hard to make a living in athletics and the rules set out by the IAAF make it even harder to make a buck.

Other endurance sports such as cycling and triathlon see athletes promoting many brands at their biggest competitions outside of the Olympics.

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An energy drink company approached me earlier this year and was interested in sponsoring me. Their agenda was to get exposure at the Berlin marathon by having their logo on my singlet. I told them there were logo restrictions at IAAF races and they said they would have their team do the research. I’m sure they read the IAAF document because they never got back to me.

Last week I was helping out the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) race organization with the elite athletes. One of my jobs was to check the singlets, shorts, arm warmers, gloves and socks that the athletes would wear during the race. If a logo was too big we would put a piece of tape over the logo. Tape would also be placed over second (or third) logos. Sometimes that meant placing tape over local club logos which were too big. I felt bad doing this but at that stage we just didn’t want any trouble for the athlete or the race’s standing with the IAAF.

Truth be told I forgot to look out for temporary tattoos Sunday morning on the STWM start line.

New Balance gives me two singlets to wear each year. One that reads “new balance” in big letters across the front and one which only has a small logo. For most of my races I wear the one that reads “new balance” but for the big marathons I know to wear the other singlet so I don’t need to put tape on my singlet. It’s crazy to me that we cannot promote companies to the fullest. These are the companies which support athletes so they are able to train and compete at a higher level.

It’s hard to understand how putting tape over “Speed River” or having a smaller “NB” logo helps the integrity of the sport, or whatever it is the IAAF thinks they are doing with these regulations. These rules will inevitably be amended. I just wish they would hurry up with it while I still have sponsors wanting space on my gear.

Due to popular demand, here is a picture of John Mason with tape over a ‘large’ “Speed River” logo.


  1. pyrad permalink
    October 23, 2015 7:44 am

    I had no idea about these restrictions. In most of my races I’m covered in company logos. Mind you, I paid for that gear and I’m not receiving sponsorship…

    But you’re right to compare it to triathlon and cycling events where logos cover practically every square inch of the athlete.

  2. November 1, 2015 10:08 am

    Can IAAF actually strip you of a medal for a too-large logo? Or could disobeying the rules be worth it if sponsorship money outweighed the sanctions/financial penalties?

    PS: I noticed section 4.1.5: “The size of the name/Logo of the Manufacturer of shoes used by an Athlete is not restricted in size”. It sounds like a big logo across the top of your shoes would be ok (?) All very strange.

  3. November 4, 2015 10:10 am

    The ex-head of the IAAF and others have been arrested and charged with taking money for covering up doping and other corruption. In light of that, why do you think they would only like to see one company’s logo on your gear.

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      November 4, 2015 8:43 pm

      I thought about that before. The big companies would definitely want exclusivity on athletes and perhaps they per$uasively lobby the IAAF?


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