Most contests in the 2024 Summer Olympics set for Paris, France, won’t start until next summer. NBC has been running one race for months.
NBCUniversal is seeing more robust interest in the athletic extravaganza from Madison Avenue than is the norm at this point in negotiations, says Dan Lovinger, president of the media company’s Olympics and Paralympics sales, in an interview. “With almost ten months to go, we are exceeding where we were” going into Olympics in Tokyo — which had to be sold through two different processes owing to the coronavirus pandemic — Beijing, Rio and London, says Lovinger, “We are in very good shape.”
The executive would not say how much advertising NBCU had booked for the Paris Olympics, but suggested the company was “darn close” to the $1 billion mark. NBCU is believed to have sold around $1.25 billion in national advertising related to its 2021 broadcast of the Olympics Games in Tokyo. There was some furor around viewership patterns around the event, with linear audiences in decline and digital consumption on the rise.
Advertiser interest in the Olympics mirrors that for another big sports event, the broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII, set for next February from CBS, which also experienced early demand. With more consumers migrating to on-demand streaming video, advertisers are placing even more importance on big sports spectacles, which tend to draw the large simultaneous audiences Madison Avenue craves. Getting a single message in front of millions is often more cost-efficient when compared to aggregating the hundreds of individual exposures that often take place via streaming video. Fox Corp., which broadcast this year’s Super Bowl, said it nabbed approximately $600 million in national ad sales tied to the Big Game.
NBCU is engaged in a broad range of deal-making, Lovinger says, willing to cut ad pacts valued at less than $100,000 when it comes to digital inventory built around a niche audience, but also seeking “nine-figure deals” for top placement. The executive says NBCU is sold out of advertising around the live broadcast of the Paris Olympics opening ceremony (and down to “a handful of units left” in the more polished primetime rebroadcast). Halftime sponsorships of team sports such as soccer and basketball are also sold out.
The company has also sold out a special ad format it will utilize. A select group of marketers will get the sole ad placement in a half-hour of Olympics that will otherwise be free of commercials. On 13 different nights, NBC will let the sponsor of the half-hour get a 60-second ad that will be shown in a “double box” on screen so that viewers can watch the Olympics action alongside the advertising.
NBCU and its parent corporation, Comcast need the ad dollars the Olympics generate. The media giants are in the midst of a $7.75 billion deal that gives them U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics between 2021 and 2032. NBC has been promoting the Paris Olympics for months, says Jenny Storms, chief marketing officer of sports and entertainment for NBCU, in an interview, and with good reason. The Paris locale means NBCU will have fewer time-zones to navigate compared to recent efforts that have sent the company to big cities in Asia. And Paris, says Storms, conjures up luxury, food, and fashion — “all these other verticals that have people authentically engaging with us.”
Under her aegis, NBCU has tapped Peyton Manning to nod to the Summer Olympics during “Sunday Night Football” and Dolly Parton to urge viewers to “save the date.” Her team has worked on crafting “combustible moments” that focus on athletes’ stories and efforts by Paris to make the Olympics more bespoke, such as setting up beach volleyball in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower or having the opening ceremonies move down the River Seine. The Paris Olympics take place between July 26 and August 11, 2024, with the 17th Summer Paralympic Games set for between August 28 and September 8, 2024.
NBCU must also navigate new viewer behavior. The company estimates viewership via digital windows will grow, Lovinger says, which likely means a larger share of ad dollars devoted to the Peacock streaming hub., “Our modeling has linear roughly flat,” he adds.
But the new behaviors give NBCU an opportunity to bring in a broader array of advertisers. Some will be the Olympics top sponsors who want to hit a large assemblage with an ad message, but others may have more specific goals. NBC is seeing a rise in ad dollars being placed alongside women’s sporting events, Lovinger says. He also notes that ad spending from pharmaceutical companies and automotive marketers — the latter has cut back on general-market ad outlays for some time — appears to be robust.
NBCU is also gearing up for future Games. The 2028 spectacular will be held in Los Angeles, marking the first time in 32 years that an Olympics will be held on U.S. soil. NBCU has already entered discussions with some of the top Games sponsors, Lovinger says. “We have a lot of big business” already under some early deals, he adds.