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Alongtime sponsor of Olympic teams, Coca-Cola Co. is now looking to send a new contingent to the 1996 Games in Atlanta: the fans.

Coca-Cola in late April launches a promotion distributing 36.5 million ticket brochures for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games through grocery stores nationwide in May.

One hundred pairs of free trips to the Summer Games will also be placed inside cases of Coca-Cola Classic, Caffeine Free Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Sprite and Diet Sprite.

Point-of-purchase displays will hold the 48-page brochures, complete with ticket request forms and schedules for the Games. The nine-week promotion is getting a boost from $25 million in media spending, including TV, print and radio ads. The first spots are scheduled to air at the end of April.

"This is the largest distribution ever developed for Olympic Games tickets," said Billy Payne, president-CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

Ticket sales are going to be important, insiders say. Still running short on sponsorships, ACOG will be relying more heavily on gate receipts to foot the Olympics' $1.6 billion bill.

"This should generate a lot of publicity and have a dramatic effect on sales," said Brian Murphy, editor and publisher of The Sports Marketing Letter, Westport, Conn.

Mr. Murphy added that the promotion is also great insurance against ambush marketing efforts by Coca-Cola competitors seeking to use the cachet of the Olympics without paying to be official sponsors.

"With ticket brochures," he said, "it makes it unmistakable who has the Olympic connection."

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