It's time to unveil who was behind @Offical_Rule40 #RioBot.

As the symbolic torch was lit at Rio 2016, opportunities were being extinguished for brands to activate around this 'prestigious' global sports gathering.

Sitting at home watching the build-up to the opening ceremony, some colleagues and I were chatting and sharing some Rio messages through Whatsapp from Irish brands infringing on the International Olympics Guidelines on the use of official terms; In particular, Rule 40.

What followed, was by no means heavily planned and tactics were agile, I spotted an opportunity, and I rode the wave. Social media at its best!

With an estimated reach on Twitter in the tens of millions followed by extensive media pick up, not bad for an idea with zero budget and live just 24hrs on Twitter.

I am the #RioBot.

@straycarnivore "I have no idea if @Official_Rule40 is a real account or genius satire. But it has already won Olympic Gold in the Rio of my heart."

What is Rule 40?

It is a guideline intended to prevent a brand that is not an Official sponsor of the of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from tweeting or posting about the Olympics.

The Idea

The conversation about brands infringing on Rule 40 continued on Whatapps with my colleagues at eightytwenty. We were debating whether the brands would get caught, and ideating how infringements would be monitored by the powers on social media. At this stage, a question popped into my head: how on earth can the USOC and IOC monitor and act on all accounts breaking the guidelines. Can they really send a cease and desist message through social like they would by letter to ensure compliance to large brands, well before legal proceedings?

Then I got a light bulb moment. What if the Olympics had a bot that auto-responded to accounts/brands that used official Rio 2016 terms informing them they are in violation. So I created one for them…well, kind of.

@Offical_Rule40 was born.

Why did I do it?

It has been a rocky road for Rio 2016 with issues on the ground, doping within the sport and said management of such doping by the governing bodies, but for the athlete's and brands, the IOC guidelines and the cursed upon (as I discover in my scheming) 'Rule 40' was just as big.

Rule 40 has caused frustration for many including myself both working within the industry, through missed opportunities for brands to activate around in the games.  Cue Art Directors tearing their hair out when they were told they couldn't mention medals, podiums, sports, summer, any of the countries, teams…the struggle was real.

On a much more important level, appreciating the work that the athletes put in (often on a shoestring budget) for four years to prepare themselves for what can be the biggest day of their lives, this rule seems particularly unfair.

Now, having said that the rule has been relaxed somewhat and some athletes have managed to play by the Rule40 and build non-official sponsor campaigns with their ambassadors

The irony of this idea was, I was infringing on IOC copyright while telling brands they were breaking the rules.

How did I do it?

This was by no means heavily planned with tactics, I was agile, I simply had an idea and it evolved as I progressed in my short 24hrs of life as RioBot.

Now suspended after 24hrs being active, the account was a fake bot (managed organically) where I searched Olympic keywords to find brands who were 'breaking' the rules or perceived rules.

@BlaireMoskowitz ".@official_rule40 was my favorite troll account of the day, until it got suspended. #RioOlympics"

Mistakes around Rule40 crept out of the woodwork, but only a few noticed. Most people only knew the initial negativity surrounding the guidelines from the USOC and IOC and not the deep dive into all the terms. This made the power of any of the tweets stronger as people consumed and acted without hesitation.

At first, I was going to target small businesses and brands to send them a generic tweet to warn them of the violation, (which I later did), but when I searched #Rio2016 the Top Tweet was a good luck message from his holiness, The Pope.

So… he's a global brand, right? AND off I went.

@mikemikemac "@official_rule40 One of those parody accounts you wish you thought of"

Excuse the double space, I'd like to blame the bot error but it was me…

Once I saw how quickly my response  to @Pontifex gathered momentum I went after other influential and topical accounts:

Ted Cruz – His Twitter manager actually deleted the tweet when notified – #winning.

No.10 Downing Street

The White House

Donald Trump

I even broke character at one stage.

@ThaChadwick "#RioBot @Official_Rule40 was either a terribly executed #Rule40 idea from @iocmedia or a brilliantly executed parody account. #Rio2016"

In total, I tweeted 47 times to a mix of businesses, personalities, and brands, some of which deleted their posts and sent an apology Tweet.

In the space of 24hrs momentum begun to pick up from people on social with a mix of outrage and debate about Rule40 knowing it was a fake account. It didn't stop people believing, commenting and RTing.

@JRNHeadlines "The @Official_Rule40 feed is the best comedy of the summer of #Rio2016. Automated threats to the Pope, White House, PM May, Sen.Cruz + more.@

The results

@JGoldsbie "The best Twitter account in the world @Official_Rule40"

@Offical_Rule40 reached over an estimated 10.2 million (potentially 22 million) people globally (with a large US audience based on accounts I targeted). Third party accounts wanted in on the action too, so shared screen grabs, one in particular I monitored.

When I measured the Tweet below for an estimated reach of our social listening tool it reached an estimated 4.2 million people.

 *The listening tool only allows us to measure 1,000 tweets max, so the figure could be up to an estimated earned reach of 12 million for the below Tweet alone.

Over 3.7k RT and 3.3K likes.

@andrewteman "This is tremendous" #Rio2016 @Official_Rule40

This does not include the thousands of posts shared from other earned sources who used the screengrab after @Official_Rule40 was suspended. So based on only the figures I can genuinely attribute to thus far it's reached an estimated 10.2 million people, next the media pick up!

The news

With the volume of mentions and conversations, I expected it to make the news and it did:

The Drum

Campaign Live 

PR Week

NBC Chicago 


So that's it. It all starts with owning an idea and having the vision to run with it. If you'd like to see more about the Twitter account and access to all the tweets published etc. I still have access to the Tweets and notifications. Get in touch through @lemachine on Twitter or email:

Go Sportsball.

Yours in Sport,

Michael A.K.A RioBot.

IOC please don't sue us for copyright infringement. We were just trying to help out.