Sales Reps Go for Olympic Gold

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In a bid to drive local ad sales for its coverage of the Summer Olympics in Athens, NBC Cable is underwriting a series of junkets for top cable ad sales reps.

The affiliate ad-sales support from NBC varies from operator to operator. While NBC is sending the winners of sales contests at Mediacom Communications Corp. and Time Warner Cable on free trips, the programmer is holding “mini-upfronts” in a handful of Cox Communications Inc. markets to help woo local advertisers.

In Mediacom’s “Go For The Gold” three-week sales contest in March, sales reps earned points for booking deals with new clients or expanding agreements with existing advertisers that bought local avails for NBC Cable’s coverage of the Games from Aug. 13-29.

Three gold prize winners won trips to New York or Los Angeles, while 10 silver prize winners are off to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau conference next month in Chicago, according to NBC Cable vice president of affiliate ad sales and promotions Briant Hunt. Bronze prize winners nabbed NBC premiums.

With its purchase of Vivendi Universal Entertainment now complete, some of MSNBC’s planned Olympics coverage — a lineup that includes softball and basketball — will shift to USA, Hunt said.

Mediacom vice president of ad sales development Steve Litwer said the Olympics sales contest helped the MSO cut deals with 84 advertisers, leading to local sell-through levels of between 50% and 100% for the Games as of March 31. Litwer added, Mediacom expects to more than double the amount of ad revenue that it generated from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

For Time Warner Cable, NBC will send the top seven Olympics sales performers on vacations. The top three will visit Bermuda, where NBC has rented a beach resort and will host many of its top advertising clients. The other four winners will get four-day trips anywhere in the United States.

NBC also is giving Time Warner Cable $150,000 worth of premiums such as T-shirts and coffee mugs, Hunt said.

At Comcast Corp., the top 18 sales reps will receive trips, co-underwritten by the MSO, to an Olympics training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.

NBC also created cross-channel spots for Olympic programming that will run in 12 of Comcast’s markets, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. The customized spots feature U.S. Olympic Team athletes from each market and contain a seven-second tag that Comcast can sell to local advertisers.

For Cox, NBC recently sponsored a “mini-upfront” for Olympics programming in Las Vegas, and it plans to run similar events in San Diego and Phoenix.

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