AT&T in Denver Nears Olympics Sellout

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Sales of local advertising avails during the Winter Olympics seem to be a little brisker at AT&T Media Services' systems in the Mountain States than in most places.

"We're a little over 90 percent sold for the Denver metro area," AT&T director of sales for Colorado and Wyoming Curt Kennedy said last week. He declined to discuss dollars.

In early November, NBC Cable Networks executives had projected that AT&T Broadband systems in Denver and Salt Lake City — the latter hosts the 2002 Winter Olympics from Feb. 9 to Feb. 24 — would sell out their Olympic inventory by mid-November.

Although ad sales have been strong, Kennedy, like AT&T Media Services' Salt Lake City general manager Kirt Burton, said the NBC projections were overly optimistic.

In Denver, Kennedy said, home-construction, automotive and resort clients have already made significant local Olympic commitments.

"A variety of auto dealerships" have also booked time, he said. Although Chevrolet has recently bought banner ads on MSNBC's Web site (www.msnbc.com) to promote an Olympics sweepstakes, Kennedy said no local Chevy dealerships have been booked as yet — although he expects to sign some up before the Winter Games begin.

Restaurants and local retailers are two other categories that should snap up many of the remaining Olympics avails, he added.

Kennedy maintained that his region didn't need to rely on Visa International Inc.'s "Bring Home the Gold Sweepstakes" affiliate tie-in to attract support from chains like The Home Depot Inc. "We're selling [the Olympics inventory] entirely on its own merits," he said.

Three factors have helped Olympic sales in Denver, according to Kennedy. For one, "this Olympics is going to be more exciting because there will be a lot more live coverage during the day and at night" on CNBC and MSNBC, he said.

"Being in geographic proximity [to the host city] certainly helps," Kennedy added. "And a lot of Olympians live in our state."

Thirdly, "our initial presentation created a lot of excitement" among prospective advertisers last August, Kennedy said.

AT&T's four packages of local Olympics avails included opportunities that were "priced more affordably for smaller businesses," he said. "We can break it down into eight zones with geographic significance for our clients' businesses."

Unlike Adelphia Media Services in Buffalo, N.Y. — which is selling Olympics avails in tandem with WGRZ-TV, Buffalo's NBC affiliate — Kennedy said his systems are selling in a "more traditional" way by competing for ad dollars against local television stations.

Although many local and national buyers and sellers have pointed to the post-Sept. 11 upsurge in patriotism in this country as a major selling point, Kennedy cited a more practical reason, at least where automotive accounts are concerned.

Automakers and dealers "need to figure out how to handle what comes after zero-percent financing," he said. The Winter Olympics — with its large, upscale audience — offers a major platform to get that message out, Kennedy said.

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