As a result, NBC Sports Sales Chief Seth Winter and his staff
must gear up for new ways to approach advertisers on each
For this summer's Olympics in London, problems included
unloading a huge amount of digital inventory and a still-fragile
economy that has financial-services and other categories less
likely to invest Olympic-sized sums. For example, Bank of America's
USOC sponsorship ended in 2008, leaving the U.S team without a
major financial-services sponsor.
With creative packaging, however, NBC has sold more than $900
million of advertising for the upcoming games, Mr. Winter said,
compared with the amount sold for its telecast of the 2008 Summer
Olympics in Beijing, in the mid-$800 million range. (Some ad buyers
privately suggest NBC may have sold slightly less.)
"They are having a good market," said one ad-buying executive
with knowledge of the situation. But "the later part of any market
is tougher than the first part. I think they have a lot more
inventory and a lot more hours of programs to sell."
To help get advertisers interested, NBC has broken up
sponsorships for certain ad categories. A smaller pact can be
especially attractive if budgets are tight or public scrutiny is
intense."We segmented the financial-services category more finely
than we did in the past," offering sponsorships in retail banking,
self-directed investment and wealth management, Mr. Winter said.
Working with the U.S. committee, NBCU got Citibank onboard as
retail-banking sponsor. TD Ameritrade signed on in self-directed
NBC also experimented with the auto category. Because BMW is a
USOC sponsor (known as a "rings" holder), NBC had to offer the
company the opportunity to be the exclusive auto sponsor --
something that requires "an enormous investment," Mr. Winter said.
At the same time, General Motors was
making an aggressive push to advertise.
NBC saw a synergy. The two automakers didn't consider themselves
direct competitors, so the network was able to assemble an approach
"that allowed us to have a relatively clutter-free environment,"
Mr. Winter said. Neither marketer would have to worry about a
deluge of ads from a broad array of others in the auto
Persuading advertisers to buy the Olympics is crucial to NBC
recently agreed to a $4.3 billion contract that will keep the
Olympics at the network through 2020, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts
has vowed to make the broadcasts profitable.
Corporate fortunes aren't the only thing riding on the Olympics.
NBC hopes for massive viewership to which it can promote the fall
lineup. It's also using the Olympics to test how live video
streaming affects the TV audience. NBC Sports intends to broadcast
every event live in some form and will show more than 3,600 hours
of Olympics programming across its outlets. NBC begins selling
Olympics ad berths immediately after the previous event. Olympic
committee sponsors are approached first, followed by others that
bought TV advertising during the event. A second phase involves
seeking sponsors that may not be able to invest so far in advance.
Indeed, initial success in the telecast can spur further demand.
NBC Universal has collected $15 million to $30 million of
advertising while the games are in progress, said Mr. Winter.
"It's not like the 'We're Sold Out' sign goes up at any point,"
said Ira Berger, brand media director at independent shop Richards
Group in Dallas.