The IOC is relaxing a rule that prohibited athletes from promoting non-official sponsors during the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee executive board agreed on Thursday to modify a provision known as Rule 40, which athletes strongly protested because it stopped them from mentioning their own sponsors.

Under the proposed new rule, the IOC will allow "generic" or "non-Olympic advertising" during the games. The change, which requires formal approval by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur in July, would be in effect for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janei ‚Äčto.

"It has to do with advertising around the games, on a social media site, or newspaper, or whatever," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "So if someone has a contract with a watch manufacturer, that may continue as long as the advert doesn't relate to the games."

Rule 40 prohibits athletes from using their names or likenesses for advertising during a nearly month-long period around the games. Sanctions for violators can include disqualification and stripping of medals.

"Athletes have wanted this changed for a very long time," Adams said. "It's been a very long discussion."

Rule 40 was intended to protect official Olympic sponsors, who spend tens of millions of dollars for exclusive marketing rights.

The rule states: "Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."

Dozens of athletes launched a Twitter campaign during the 2012 London Olympics to urge an end to the rule. They used the hashtag "WeDemandChange2012."