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NBC Comes Close To Olympics Sellout

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NBC has whipped up a flurry of new Winter Olympics advertising deals involving DHL, Lenovo and ExxonMobil, each ranging from $15 million to $30 million. These deals push the Games' sellout level to more than 85 percent and its dollar total to about $775 million, according to Peter Lazarus, svp, sports and Olympic sales.

NBC's sales goal for the February prime-time Olympics telecasts is $900 million. The deals include advertising across multiple platforms, not just commercial spots on the network. As part of its deal with the the network, Lenovo, which acquired the IBM personal computer division earlier this year, will also provide PCs for NBC to use during the games in Torino, Italy, which run Feb. 10 to Feb. 26.

"It appears that many advertisers are coming into the marketplace later than in previous years," particularly movie studios, pharmaceutical advertisers and financial institutions, Lazarus said.

Case in point: DHL and Lenovo are Olympic-rings holders, or part of a group of official marketing partners that tends to cut its Olympic deals early. "Buying cycles have been shortened, but in the past few weeks the Olympic marketplace has become healthy," said Lazarus, who added that on a percentage basis, NBC is running about even with sales for the last Winter Olympics, but has landed more dollar volume because its goal is higher.

He added that many of the deals have been for multiyear commitments, and that the 2008 Summer Olympics, to be telecast from Beijing, is about 45 percent sold.

"The Olympics has always been a profitable investment for NBC, every year we have televised it," Lazarus said. "And each year, we have increased our revenue stream to higher levels. It will be profitable again this year."

He added that the network is in negotiations with several other potential advertisers and, thanks to the broad scope of coverage across its cable networks and Web sites, could continue selling inventory if the demand is there.