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The Olympics are coming and consumers know it.

With the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta still a year away, most consumers are ready for the Games to begin, according to a phone survey of 250 people conducted in April by NFO Research, Greenwich, Conn. Margin of error was 6.2 percentage points.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed knew the next Summer Games will take place in 1996 and roughly 64% of those will follow the competition.

"The awareness level is high with the Games over a year away" from when the survey was taken, said Brent White, VP at NFO's Chicago office.

As far as location is concerned, about 62% knew the Olympics would be held in the U.S. and of those 93% knew the correct city, Atlanta.

Among the 64% who will follow the Summer Olympic Games, 40% will follow several events, while 5% will follow every event.

The most popular event to follow is track and field, at 57%. Other events of high interest are swimming, 49%; gymnastics, 25%; diving, 17%; and basketball, 16%. And females were more likely than males to follow swimming, gymnastics and diving.

When it comes to financing, many consumers don't know how the Olympic Games are funded.

When people were asked, "What ways are you aware of that are used to raise money for financing the Olympic Games?" 40% couldn't name any.

Mr. White believes that might change as the Olympic Games get closer and audiences become aware of sponsorships.

However, of the 60% who named methods of raising money, corporate sponsorship topped the list with 26%. Others included: gifts/donations, 20%; sales of Olympic merchandise, 15%; and advertising, 14%.

Consumers' early response to the Olympic Games seems to be good news for marketing sponsors.

Two-thirds of the respondents feel it is at least somewhat important for a corporation to be an Olympic sponsor. Yet, 73% feel it is more important to be a worldwide sponsor instead of a domestic sponsor.

An Olympic sponsorship can also influence consumer buying habits, according to survey numbers; 23% of consumers would definitely or probably switch from their current brand to a brand offered by an Olympic sponsor.

And of the 64% who will be following the Olympic Games, 29% said they would definitely or probably switch to an Olympic-sponsored brand.

Females and people with household incomes under $35,000 would be most likely to switch to an Olympic-sponsored brand. Geographically, consumers from the South, 28%, and North Central, 29%, would most likely switch.

However, Mr. White cautioned sponsors not to jump to any conclusions because of these numbers.

"The numbers do bode well for sponsors," Mr. White said. "But, most likely [the numbers] just indicate that consumers express favorable attitudes toward sponsorship brands."

Forty-one percent of respondents couldn't name any companies as sponsors of the '96 Games. Most who did remember a company cited advertising, 38%, as how they became aware of the sponsorship. And among those who recalled seeing '96 Olympic sponsor advertisements, 47% claimed to have seen the ad on TV.

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