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Paris Olympics on track to hit NBC ad sales record after pandemic

Published 09/04/2024, 16:54
Updated 10/04/2024, 15:55
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the logo of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Paris, France, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
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By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) - As the July opening ceremony for the 2024 Paris Olympics draws closer, U.S. broadcaster NBCUniversal is seeing renewed interest from major corporate sponsors in the premier global sporting event as fans are expected to fill Olympic stadiums for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comcast-owned NBCU said on Tuesday it has sold $1.2 billion in advertising for the Paris games and is on track to achieve a new sales record in Olympic history. The company paid $7.65 billion to renew its broadcast rights deal through 2032, the largest deal in the world for the games. 

Ad spending from International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsors is currently up 18% from the previous summer Olympics in Tokyo that took place in 2021, said Dan Lovinger, president of Olympic and Paralympic sales at NBCU, in an interview.

The announcement represents a rebound from previous years. In recent Olympics, IOC sponsors reduced their ad spending with the media company, according to a former NBCU executive and a second person familiar with the ad sales. 

IOC sponsors, which include major brands like Visa (NYSE:V), Toyota and Procter & Gamble, pay upwards of an estimated $100 million for the right to use the famous Olympic rings in their marketing materials. 

The growth can be attributed to Paris being the first Olympics to allow all spectators since the pandemic, and with a more favorable time zone for U.S. audiences after three Olympics in Asia, Lovinger said.

"Very few properties can help (brands) build reach and know exactly where their advertising is running. That is why the Olympics continues to garner support from major advertisers," he said. 

As viewers, particularly young people, increasingly consume content online and through social media, NBCU has taken steps to follow the shift. It announced last month that in a summer Olympics first, every Paris event would be available on its streaming service Peacock. Advertisers will be able to buy ads for the first time using automated technology, rather than salespeople, and NBCU has also inked agreements to post clips on X and Snapchat. 

NBCU's digital advertising revenue for Paris has already surpassed any past Olympics, Lovinger said. 

'GETTING HARDER' 

In previous Olympics as top IOC sponsors reduced their ad spending, NBCU cast a wider net to sell to brands that were not Olympic partners in order to make up the difference, according to the former NBCU executive and the second source familiar with its ads sales. 

The former executive said the media company sold to about three-times as many advertisers to reach sales goals for Tokyo and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, adding that the effort was "getting harder and harder."

In March 2020, NBCU said it sold $1.25 billion in ads for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The media company restarted the sales process when the games were delayed to the following year due to the pandemic. NBCU said in mid-2021 that Tokyo was on track to exceed the $1.2 billion in ads sold for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, but declined to say whether it would beat the $1.25 billion sold before the Tokyo games were postponed.

NBCU has booked $350 million in revenue from brands advertising for the first time during the Olympics, Lovinger said, adding that the growth in the number of advertisers supporting the games is a positive for the Olympics. 

Procter & Gamble was previously spending in the tens of millions of dollars with NBCU for the Olympics, but cut its spending by about 50% over time, the former NBCU executive said. 

NBCU declined to comment on P&G spending. P&G said its brands will have television commercials during the Paris games.

Chipmaker Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and tire brand Bridgestone, two IOC sponsors, told Reuters they will forgo television ads and place their Paris marketing campaigns on digital platforms. 

"The days of big TV campaigns are behind us," said Bridgestone's chief marketing officer Sara Correa. 

Bridgestone filmed a video showcasing how it uses its rubber technology to help Paralympic athletes with tires for their wheelchairs and rubber soles for running blades, which it posted on its YouTube, Facebook (NASDAQ:META) and Instagram accounts.

Intel said it was exploring billboards and so-called out-of-home advertising in addition to digital and social. 

Digital can be a draw for brands with an eye on reigning in costs. "The absolute cost of digital is lower. Digital is easier to track and easier to measure," said Martin Sorrell, founder of advertising firms S4 Capital and WPP (LON:WPP). 

Visa said it continued to believe in the power of TV for live sports, but added that the "center-of-gravity for fans, especially relatively young fans, is social media," said Frank Cooper, Visa’s chief marketing officer.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the logo of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Paris, France, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Toyota said it would advertise on TV, including during the opening and closing ceremonies, while working with celebrities and athletes to connect with audiences that are not traditional sports fans. 

“It's an interesting way of expanding a traditional Olympic marketing base and connect with people through influencers,” said Dedra DeLilli, Toyota's head of sponsorships. 

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