Olympics Deliver Ad Sales Gold


The 2008 Summer Olympic Games were a huge success for NBC Universal. Ratings soared and the company broke ad sales records, raking in over $1 billion sales for the two-week event. While many local broadcast stations didn’t fare as well as their network partner, according to various news reports, many cable operators said they were pleased with the sales the Games generated for their ad sales departments.

Cox Media was successful in selling Olympics programming in a challenging ad sales environment, said David Roegge, director of marketing for Cox Media. Some markets were particularly successful in selling "Gold," "Silver" and "Bronze" media packages that included production discounts.

Comcast Spotlight Colorado also experienced strong sales during the recent games, according to Kurt Kennedy, vice president and general manager. While the Olympic Games always perform well in the region, Kennedy said this year’s sales were particularly strong because of viewer interest.

“NBC Universal did a great job of promoting the games and raising awareness,” Kennedy said. “I think there was more interest in this year’s Games partly because it was Beijing and partly because there were great human interest stories.”

There was also the USA Dream Team basketball team that included local favorite Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. He had a lot to prove this year and local fans were eager to watch him perform well, which he did.

Spotlight Colorado didn’t craft any special promotions or campaigns for the games this year, Kennedy said, opting instead to focus on training for the AEs on the games and sports to be televised and then tying sales to clients’ needs and interests.

“We did well on a geographic zoned basis, as well as targeted audience ads,” Kennedy said. “We saw strong sales from sporting goods stores, local bike shops and some stores wanting to hype some pre-winter season ski sales. There was a lot of interest in the basketball games this year, most of which were aired on USA Network. We had a lot of activity there. Sports sales are a big part of what we do naturally, so selling these games were just an extension of that expertise.”

In Bend, Ore., Bend Broadband experienced its best ad sales of the month in August, according to Tim Olson, vice president of Central Oregon Cable Advertising, the sales division for BendBroadband. He attributed much of that to the Summer Games.

“The ‘water cooler talk’ associated with the build up to and actual event that is the Olympics is a great catalyst for television as a medium,” he said. “The timing of the Olympics also brings the unique value associated with the programming and the strength of our medium into play at a great time of the year.”

Still, there were challenges. Some advertisers voiced concerns over the controversy surrounding China's human rights record, Roegge said. “To address this, we shared information with our sales teams to help alleviate advertiser concerns over the convening of the games in China,” he said.

Reogge the success of the games fed on itself as well and helped drive sales. “As the Olympics started,” he said, “there were articles in the daily newspapers about the increase in Olympics television viewing over 2004, so local overnight ratings were pulled and distributed to the markets. This led to a flurry of Olympics revenue after they had started.”

NBCU created several campaigns this year to help operators hype and sell the quadrennial event. On the local ad sales front, the programming giant provided affiliates with internal and external materials including a series of tagable ads, printed postcards, and broadcast calendars, among other materials, designed to lure advertisers to the games. A powerpoint presentation, for instance, provided AEs with demographic information pertaining to the games to make it an easier and smarter sale. The presentation was also designed to act as a trianing tool for local AEs so they could better pitch the games to clients.