By Published on .

Ratings shortfalls on CBS' broadcast of the Winter Olympics aren't deterring Anheuser-Busch, AT&T Corp. and Coca-Cola Co., expected to announce within weeks deals to advertise on NBC's broadcasts of the next five Olympic Games.

Although the U.S. Olympic Committee has signed on a number of eight-year sponsors, General Motors Corp. is the only advertiser so far to have signed with NBC, a deal said to be worth $500 million. A-B's pact is almost approaching that, and is valued at $375 million for the NBC rights.


By the Games' close, CBS should deliver Nike, IBM Corp. and other advertisers about a 16.8 prime-time rating, far short of the 19.6 promised. The Tiffany network last week was in the thick of talks with advertisers over make-goods and where and when those ads will air on CBS' schedule. The network will likely have about 275 make-goods, half aired during the Games.

"I think the American public is watching the Olympics through the morning news shows. They're saying, `Why wait until tonight when I can catch the highlights in the morning?'*" said Gary Jacobus, senior VP-corporate representation at sports marketing company International Management Group, New York.


Besides the significant time zone difference between the U.S. and Nagano, Japan, CBS' ratings were affected by bad weather that canceled many events and an under- whelming performance by U.S. athletes.

But Mr. Jacobus added that there are too few personalities for sports fans to be interested in. "We've heard of Kwan and Lipinski, but the other stars are in sports we haven't heard much about. The American public needs hype and there's not a lot of hype around these new stars," said Mr. Jacobus.

Although advertisers will try to leverage the poor performance of CBS to squeeze NBC for lower rates in 2002, observers said that will be difficult.

"Advertisers will definitely try to use this to their advantage," said Steve Sternberg, senior partner at TN Media, New York. "The previous Olympics is usually the benchmark to begin negotiating for the next Olympics."

However, Mr. Sternberg and others say advertisers won't be very successful in getting bargains for the 2002 Olympics because Salt Lake City will host those Games. U.S. ratings tend to be much higher for Games held in the States.


"I don't see the problems of Nagano even putting a dent in the marketability of the next Winter Olympics," said Mark Dowley, managing director of Momentum IMC, a New York-based global sports marketing company.

Bob Basche, president of Millsport, a sports marketing agency in Stamford, Conn., said the problems of Nagano won't hinder the Olympic movement in the U.S., noting that the strength of the Summer Olympics, the allure of Sydney as a venue in 2000, and the Salt Lake City-hosted 2002 Games will "erase the negatives of Nagano."

Ironically, sports marketers believe the generally poor showing of the U.S. Olympic team will strengthen the Olympics as a sponsorship platform for global marketers.

"As a global sponsor you want to see as much global competition as possible," said Mr. Dowley. "It generates excitement and awareness for sponsors in more countries."


Stateside, the USOC will work to keep the Olympics vital and top of mind with consumers over the next several years. The USOC is working with TV producer and syndicator Trans World International to create a 26-part syndicated TV series called "U.S. Olympic Gold." The USOC is also creating a new TV and sports event concept called Olympic Cups that would be held in between Olympic years.

Contributing: Chuck Ross.

Most Popular
In this article: