Advertisers glide past Super Bowl to Olympics

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In the competition for b-to-b advertisers in February, when Super Bowl XL and the Olympic Winter Games XX fall within five days of each other, the Olympics is bringing home the gold.

ABC, which will broadcast Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, has sold out the first half of the game to mostly consumer advertisers, including Burger King, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette, ESPN Mobile and several automotive companies. With a price tag of $2.4 million for a 30-second spot, the Super Bowl is a steep bet for advertisers.

As of press time there was only one confirmed b-to-b advertiser for the big game, FedEx Corp., which will be making its 16th Super Bowl appearance.

"The Super Bowl presents the highest quality and mass reach audience of anything out there," said Steve Pacheco, director of advertising at FedEx.

"The Super Bowl is a payoff for our NFL strategy," he added, pointing to FedEx's extensive presence on NFL games this season.

In 2005, FedEx launched four TV spots aimed at small businesses during NFL telecasts and created a Web site at FedEx is also the official worldwide delivery service sponsor of the NFL. Its Super Bowl spot will be part of a new campaign aimed at small-business owners as well as consumers.

DHL, a competitor of FedEx, opted out of the Super Bowl this year and instead will have a heavy presence during the Winter Olympics, which will be broadcast by NBC from Feb. 10 through Feb. 26.

"The Super Bowl is a very expensive time to advertise," said Karen Jones, VP-advertising, brand and promotions at DHL Express USA. "The relationship that FedEx has with the NFL is a good sponsorship, and for us to try to go in and upstage them with the level of investment they have is not a good strategy for us."

"We really try to focus on the sponsorships that we've invested in, and this year we have invested heavily in the Olympics," Jones said.

DHL is the official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award presented by DHL. The award is given by the U.S. Olympic Committee to the top male athlete and female athlete as well as Olympic and Paralympic teams that embody the attributes of competition, team spirit and determination.

DHL will also run ads during the Olympics broadcast, including a continuation of its "Customer Service Is Back in Shipping" campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and a new campaign featuring former Olympic speedskater Dan Jansen. The new spot promotes the Olympic Spirit Award and drives viewers online to vote for their favorite athletes.

"The single most important thing that will come out of [the Olympics presence] is the message of competing on a daily basis and delivering greater customer service with our customers," Jones said.

John Osborn, president-CEO of BBDO New York, which handles clients including FedEx and GE, said he doesn't believe the proximity of the Olympics to the Super Bowl will undercut advertising for either event.

Choosing the right events

"I don't think these events are right for every brand," Osborn said. "You have to look strategically at whether these events are the right fit. The idea of passion, competition, fulfilling a promise, delivering on a dream-all of these great themes are themes that may or may not fit with a particular brand."

In his clients' cases, FedEx opted for the Super Bowl but not the Olympics, while GE chose to advertise in the Olympics but not the Super Bowl.

GE will launch an ad campaign during the Olympics that is a follow-up to last year's corporate campaign tagged "Ecomagination."

GE, which declined to disclose details about the campaign, is also a worldwide sponsor of the Olympics, along with Atos Origin, Coca-Cola Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Lenovo, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Omega Ltd., Manulife Financial Corp., McDonald's Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Visa International.

The worldwide sponsorship is the highest level of sponsorship for the Games and provides Olympic affiliation globally across all regions competing in the events, as well as a direct association with every national Olympic committee.

Visa will also run advertising during the Olympics and not the Super Bowl.

"The reason we're advertising during the Olympics and not the Super Bowl is because they are very close together this year," said Michael Rolnick, a Visa USA spokesman. Visa is a past Super Bowl advertiser.

The worldwide sponsorship gives Visa advertising exclusivity in its category, which means direct competitors MasterCard, American Express and Discover Card will not be allowed to advertise during the telecasts.

Bank of America, which is the domestic banking partner of the Olympics, will also be advertising during the Games.

Widest possible audience

"NBC will own prime time for 17 consecutive days and nights," Rolnick said. "This gives us the widest possible audience and allows us to showcase Visa products, services and messages."

AT&T, which recently merged with SBC Communications, is the official telecommunications services partner for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

AT&T will run spots throughout the telecast of the Olympic Games promoting its new brand, with the tagline, "Your world. Delivered."

Vickie Szombathy, VP-media director at StarLink Worldwide and chairwoman of the b-to-b committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said b-to-b marketers can take advantage of many opportunities around the Super Bowl and Olympics without having to spend the large amounts of money required for national broadcast buys.

"If the advertiser is hosting a hospitality event or doing any entertaining around the event, an advertising tie-in might make sense, particularly with in-stadium or local advertising," Szombathy said.

No StarLink clients are advertising in the Super Bowl or the Winter Olympics, although several are expressing interest in the 2008 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Beijing. "Because of the importance of the China market, there is some interest in the next Olympics," Szombathy said.

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