Starcom counsels advertisers to be Olympic sponsors

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The Olympics are still an important advertising platform, but custom ads and sponsorships work best, according to a just-concluded viewer-attentiveness survey conducted by Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Group.

The September phone survey polled 581 people 15 to 65 years old; results show Olympic sponsorships were better at getting viewers' attention than regular TV spots.

Kate Lynch, senior VP-global research director for Starcom USA, said that based on the survey, Starcom is recommending advertisers opt for an Olympics sponsorship.

"If you are going make the most of the Olympics, you do need to have the sponsorship and then try to create relevant, creative ads that move the audience," Ms. Lynch said. "There's no point in just putting your money in and then sticking any old ad up there.

"If you can't create some relevant communication package, don't bother," she added. "You're spending a lot of money, and it's not the right place to be if you're not prepared to go the extra mile."


According to the survey, one advertiser that stood out -- even though it wasn't an official Olympics sponsor -- was Nike. Viewers ranked Nike as the biggest advertiser during the Olympics, even though official Olympics sponsors Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp. both ran more spots than the athletic shoe giant.

"Nike always can stand out on their own," Ms. Lynch said. "The quality of their advertising and their ability to integrate into the event the message that they're giving is always going to make them different [from] any other regular advertiser.

"As people have more choices and control over what media they use, the need for advertisers and sponsors to tie in their message with the vehicle that they're using is even more important than ever."

As to viewer satisfaction with NBC's Olympics coverage, the study showed it wasn't the Waterloo many pundits painted it to be.

Overall, viewers gave NBC's coverage a thumbs-up. Among people who watched at least a portion of the 15-day coverage, 75% said NBC did a "good to excellent job."

"The Olympics are still a very powerful communication vehicle" to reach viewers, Ms. Lynch said.


And even with a heavier commercial load and events that were cookie-cutter-edited to fit TV, Starcom reported that viewer attentiveness to ads on NBC's Olympic telecasts was higher than for general TV watching.

Roughly 21% of Olympics viewers said they paid attention to the spots run during the Games, compared to 17% for overall TV. Both were dwarfed by the Super Bowl, for which 45% of viewers polled said they paid attention to the spots.

Starcom's survey also refuted claims that consumers surfing the Web for Olympics news typically cut Olympics TV viewing time. Web users typically logged four or more days of Olympics coverage and frequently watched three or more hours per viewing occasion.

"Web usage didn't seem to decrease viewer interest in viewing on the television," Ms. Lynch said.

Starcom's survey indicated that Web-surfing viewers logged a lot of media time by following the Games online. "It was amazing how much information and how much effort fans were prepared to put in to find out what was going on," she said. "They searched the Web for long periods of time, watched the Games. They wanted to surround themselves with information and news about the Games."

Starcom's study did point out one downside: Though many viewers tuned in to watch the Olympics, most didn't stay plugged in for long stretches.

Nearly 85% of viewers said they watched some Olympics, and 50% indicated they watched four or more days. But nearly 50% said they watched less than an hour during each viewing visit.

Mr. McConville is cable editor at Electronic Media.

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