A leading sport agent says Kiwi athletes deserve more say in how their images are used in Olympic sponsorships.

Roger Mortimer, manager of defending Olympic rowing champion Mahe Drysdale, has spoken out about the commercial rights athletes must hand over to Olympic bosses if they want to compete at the Games.

Mortimer, whose previous clients include Olympic champions Hamish Carter, Sarah Ulmer and Tom Ashley, says athletes have too little knowledge and control over how their images are used by corporates during the Games.

He says the application of "Rule 40" - a controversial measure in the Olympic charter which limits an athlete's individual sponsors through the Games - needs to change.


"I've been working with it [Rule 40] for the last 20 years and had major issues," Mortimer told the Herald on Sunday. "It's definitely one that needs to be progressed further for the next Commonwealth and certainly the next Olympic Games.

"Everyone with a stake in the game should have an equal seat at the table - athletes included."

To compete at the Olympics, athletes must sign a contract with the NZOC - an agreement which includes waiving some rights around promotion, sponsorship and use of identity. Once signed, the NZOC can negotiate commercial deals with sponsors which may include the use of that athlete's image.

Rule 40 was at the centre of Weekend Herald revelations yesterday that defending gold medallists Drysdale, Valerie Adams, Lisa Carrington, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were almost deemed ineligible for Rio after a stoush over an Air New Zealand advertising campaign. The worst-case scenario was the stars' Rio participation being blocked by the International Olympic Committee.

Other Kiwi athletes are also encountering surprises over Olympic ads. The Herald on Sunday understands an Anchor milk campaign includes at least one athlete who is lactose intolerant - they were not made aware of their involvement.

"The Anchor range includes products for consumers who are lactose intolerant," a spokesman for Anchor parent company Fonterra said of their commercial involvement.

The NZOC pointed to the rules set out in the athlete agreement about how image rights can be used.

"Permission for inclusion in any team promotions is secured in advance of any commercial activity as part of each athlete agreement and is clearly defined," said NZOC spokeswoman Ashley Abbott.

"Athletes involved in these general campaigns are featured as members of a wider team and are represented in groups of three or more. The support of commercial partners is necessary to ensure our athletes get to the Games and have what they need to help them achieve their performance goals."

According to her husband, Commonwealth Games decathlete Scott McLaren, hockey star Anita McLaren also got a pre-Rio surprise.

"Anita drove home recently and saw herself on a billboard that she didn't think she was going to be on. It was for Sky TV and the Olympics. She said, 'I didn't think that was going to happen' and was told it's about the Olympics so she doesn't really have much say," McLaren said.

Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way said Anita McLaren was aware of Sky's campaign. Rule 40, she said, was not applicable to SKY.