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The Yin and Yang of the Olympics

The Opening Ceremonies...

of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing are nearly upon us. That most likely puts you into one of either two camps“ those that still have Olympic airtime to sell, or those who must compete against the Games during the weeks ahead.

Throughout my career, I“ve been on both sides of that fence. I“ve sold the Olympics for both NBC and CBS affiliates, yet today I“m a sales manager at a CBS station who must treat them as a competitor. However, my company has a number of NBC affiliates, and it“s in my best interest to see them do really well with their sales efforts!

I love to take sides on an issue, but here, I find myself divided. So, in honor of the ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang, I present both sides of the Olympic sales discussion.


What to do, what to do? After months of agency presentations accompanied by catering from P.F. Chang“s, you“ve exhausted all possibility of securing a large package sponsor.

Now it“s OTO time.

The question is, are you prepared to maximize this opportunity while the Olympics are still airing? Even if you aren“t a metered market, now is the time to prepare your story. The most recent Summer Games to air during a July sweep were in Atlanta in 1996. That means that every NBC affiliate can compare how they performed that year versus the national average.

iStock/Sean Warren

If your station over-indexed in 1996, use it to your advantage! You can be certain that media buyers will be taking a close look at the national ratings from the Opening Ceremonies, as well as the first two nights of primetime, when they come to work the following week. It“s your job to be proactive and remind the buying community that you do better than the U.S. average ratings that they“re hearing about.

Metered markets can reinforce the strength of the Games with a simple bar chart. We all know how most primetime programs fare in the summer. Whether it“s a function of puts or program content, the summer ratings are not as big in July and August as they are during the rest of the year. A “Top 10 Prime Programs This Summer So Far” chart can be ready to be e-mailed to all clients and prospects as soon as the Nielsen overnights are in.

As an advertising salesperson, I sold a lot of Olympic packages. I quickly learned to shift from offense to defense once the Games began! This means scheduling delivery updates with your agencies while the Olympics are running, rather than a month afterwards.

Remember, your buyers read USA Today, too, and their perception is your reality. If you“re banking on a renewal for the 2010 Games in Vancouver, now is the time to show them that their Olympic investment makes sense.


So, do we just roll over for 17 days and nights? No way! We“re focused on selling both college and NFL football packages, where you can have an on-air presence for multiple months for less than the cost of NBC“s two-week offering.

Now is the time to set up your TiVo to record the Games in your market. Monitoring the competition not only tells you who“s in the Olympics, it more importantly tells you when their commercials are running. There“s a good chance that local advertisers are not receiving the “high” ratings being reported by the national media with the lion“s share of local primetime avails in the first and last hours of coverage.

It“s a little known fact: Nielsen doesn“t “count” the quarter hours into its national ratings unless network commercials are airing in those time periods. Therefore, the 10 rating you read about in the national press may only represent Olympic programming that ran from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Eastern. You might ask “but wait... doesn“t coverage run from 7:30 p.m. to midnight?” The answer is yes! When local ads run at 7:45 p.m.... or at 11:55 p.m.... they usually deliver far smaller audiences than what“s delivered during the peak hours of coverage.

Remember, for all you know, those beginning- and endof- coverage spots you“re seeing could be free, a “bonus” to ensure overall delivery during the Games. Nonetheless, keeping an eye on the competition will make you better prepared to discuss the client“s Olympic investment next time you“re together.


No matter which side of the Olympics you“re on, you“ve got to remember one thing“it“s still television. It“s not outdoor, it“s not cinema, and it“s not radio. No matter whom you sell for, we in TV all have the ability to reach large viewing audiences during high-profile sporting and entertainment events. When advertisers see success from buying big television events, we all win in the long run.

Let the Games begin!

Jeffrey Ulrich is a local sales manager at WGCL-TV in Atlanta. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Meredith Corp. He can be reached at