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Crave a heaping bowl of Wheaties yet? With the 1996 Atlanta Games entering their final stretch, SPINdex is hungry for some real Olympic gold-not medals, but big-time endorsement deals.

Olympic fervor continues to dominate marketing industry news, but at the midway point, it was NBC's yin and yang coverage of the Games and not the performance of any individual athletes that generated the most media impressions.

NBC's ratings, which have been averaging 50% higher than the network guaranteed Olympic advertisers, was the top story of the week. The gold medal Nielsen performance attracted 32,286 words of copy in 39 daily newspaper and eight trade magazine articles for a SPINdex of 461 for the two-week period leading up to this week's column.

The silver also went to NBC, for criticism of the network's time-shifted, tape-delayed, U.S.-centric vision of virtual Olympic reality. NBC earned a SPINdex of 310, with more than 10,000 words of copy in 15 newspaper and three trade magazine articles and 2.5 minutes of national airtime in five net newscasts.

Overall, NBC's coverage left all other marketing stories of the week in the dust. By comparison, the week's bronze medal performance-the continued shakeup and marketing maneuvers at Quaker Oats' Snapple unit-pulled a SPINdex of only 112 (See story, Page 33).

Fourth-place runner-up, cholesterol-reducing Finnish margarine brand Benacol, scored a SPINdex of 76, in seven daily newspaper stories.

But the real marketing decathlon has been taking place on the playing fields of Atlanta as the next generation of advertising stars competes for share of endorsability.

Leading the pack of Olympic ad contenders with an individual SPINdex of 106, was U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug. Women's gymnastic teammate Dominique Dawes' beauty and poise clinched her a silver medal spot with a SPINdex of 72, while golden-Nike-footed U.S. track and field star Michael Johnson garnered a bronze with a SPINdex of 62.

U.S. beach volleyball gold medalist Karch Kiraly ranked fourth with a 60 SPINdex, followed by a 49 for Carl Lewis, just before he earned his ninth Olympic gold medal with a winning long-jump performance.

Joe Mandese is senior VP of Myers Reports. Mark Weiner is VP of Medialink PR Research.

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