The McCain campaign made a last-minute $6 million ad buy, which tops the $5 million Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced last month it was buying during the Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 8.
Like the Obama team's ad buy, the McCain campaign's purchase includes network and cable spots. NBC Universal is airing 3,600 hours of Olympics coverage on its broadcast network and cable networks including NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, Oxygen and Telemundo.
The latest media outlays of both presidential campaigns are the first substantial buys of national network TV by any presidential candidate in 12 years, though Rudy Giuliani's campaign had two smaller national buys on Fox News Sunday broadcasts earlier this year.
In recent years, presidential candidates have targeted their advertising to battleground states, with some cable as their only national advertising.
The McCain campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group at TNS Media Intelligence. "For the same reason the idea was good for Barack, it is good for McCain: It's high traffic for eyeballs in a normally low-traffic time of year."
Mr. Tracey speculated that the McCain campaign, which is accepting federal funds for the general campaign, made the last-minute buy to use up money it raised for the primary season. That money can't be spent after the Republican National Convention, which is being held the first week in September.