Buyers, Mother Corp. divided on Olympic gold status
According to media buyers, the Olympic motto of 'faster, higher, stronger' didn't exactly mirror competition for commercial airtime sales at the CBC, which, media sources say, trimmed its ad rates to accommodate domestic advertisers squeamish about a Summer Games overshadowed by concerns regarding terrorism, incomplete facilities in Athens, and doping scandals.
According to media buyers, the Olympic motto of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ didn’t exactly mirror competition for commercial airtime sales at the CBC, which, media sources say, trimmed its ad rates to accommodate domestic advertisers squeamish about a Summer Games overshadowed by concerns regarding terrorism, incomplete facilities in Athens, and doping scandals.
All of which raises the question: Are the Olympics still a big-ticket item or has the event lost some of its ability to bring viewers to the edge of their living room couches?
CBC and TSN coverage of the 28th Olympiad got underway Aug. 13. Keeping taped-delay coverage to a minimum, prime-time, late night and overnight live coverage of the 16-day event will fill 294.5 hours of programming on CBC Television, another 115 hours on CBC Newsworld and 150 hours on TSN. Both casters are using pool footage from the host Olympics broadcaster, plus their own cameras, to isolate Canadian athletes – especially in track and field, diving, swimming and rowing. The tag-team coverage has TSN offering live prime-time and live overnight coverage of sporting events, mostly in their entirety, before the CBC starts up at 7 a.m. daily and goes all-day into a prime-time show anchored by Brian Williams.
CBC, which handles all Athens 2004 ad sales and sponsorship arrangements for itself and its broadcast partner The Sports Network, needed to sell commercial airtime at up to $50,000 for a package of three spots to recoup its $33 million investment in the Canadian broadcasting rights, as well as its production costs.
‘It’s difficult for many categories to justify spending that amount of money over a period of two and a half weeks,’ says Theresa Treutler, SVP media director at Doner Canada. Many clients prefer spreading their ad spend through the year.
‘The CBC will deny it, but in the categories where our agency and others are active, we are way down on what we’ve bought for Athens 2004,’ says one media buyer wishing to remain anonymous.
But Doug Brooks, GM of media sales and marketing for CBC Television, insists sales and ratings for the Summer Games are on track. ‘We’ve exceeded our sponsorship objectives, and we’re pretty much where we hoped to be in terms of ad sales,’ he says, adding that Olympics coverage inevitably brings huge audience spikes that justify the premium sponsorship and ad rates.
‘This is the beauty of this type of programming – the Olympics are live and unpredictable,’ he says. ‘People are waiting for that special moment to happen, or that unexpected moment.’
‘We anticipate some medal hopes coming into this weekend and so I think we expect some pretty good numbers as well. It’s kind of a wait and see.’
Volkswagen is on board as the auto sponsor, and RBC Financial, Johnson and Johnson, Bell Canada and Visa are also blue-chip corporate backers.
To date, the Athens ratings are higher than the previous Olympics in Sydney, Australia in three areas – off-prime (+27%); overall average (+15%) and overall average including ceremonies (+24%) with only a lower showing (-12%) in prime time audience numbers.