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NBC's $800M Ad Haul for 2014 Winter Games Might not Include A-B InBev

Coke, AT&T and GM Are on Board, but USOC Sponsors A-B InBev, Hilton Holding Out

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NBC Universal is projecting an $800 million-plus advertising haul for the 2014 Winter Olympics, said Seth Winter, exec VP-sales and marketing for NBC Sports Group. But that record projection for winter games coverage might have to count out traditional sponsor Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has indicated it can better connect with consumers through non-traditional means.

The advertising windfall for the games, to be held in Sochi, Russia, would eclipse the record $700 million-plus that NBC collected for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. (The record for the summer Olympics was set by the London 2012 Olympic Games, which drew over $1 billion in ad sales, according to Mr. Winter.)

There were concerns the six-hour time difference between the U.S. and Russia would hurt demand. But brisk sales for Sochi are "handily eclipsing" those for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. NBC thinks it's possible to sell out ad time for Sochi, which is difficult for an Olympic broadcaster given the time and inventory of the multi-week games.

"Based on our pacing, we will have a record on hands," said Mr. Winter.

Coca-Cola and AT&T are among the marketers buying time during NBC's coverage from Sochi from Feb. 6-24, 2014, said Mr. Winter. The network has signed clients such as General Motors, Liberty Mutual and Smucker's -- and "is on the cusp" of closing McDonald's and Visa, both sponsors of the International Olympic Committee.

"General Motors will be a very significant partner of ours," said Mr. Winter.

But not all of the usual suspects on Madison Avenue have signed up for NBC's coverage from the exotic Russian seaport. Mr. Winter name-checked U.S. Olympic Committee Sponsors Hilton and Anheuser-Busch, traditionally one of the biggest sports advertisers.

Said Winter: "The only disappointment we are seeing is that historic Olympic sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, has shown a disinterest in these Games, in addition to Hilton, which continues to fail to support Olympic media."

Asked to comment, Paul Chibe, VP-U.S. marketing for A-B InBev said in a statement: "Our focus for the 2014 Winter Olympics is our official sponsorship of the U.S. Olympics Team. With respect to advertising, TV media is not the only game in town. ... We are completely interested in the Olympics. We are looking for innovation, and believe we can better connect with consumers through digital and social media given our marketing plan."

Hilton did not return request for comment by deadline.

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E.J. Schultz contributed to this story.

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