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For the Olympics, Commercials for Screens of All Sizes

Brace yourself, Olympic fans, for $1 billion in advertising that will begin inundating you in 24 hours on screens in four sizes: small, on cellphones; medium, on computers and airplanes; large, on television sets; and extra large, in movie theaters.

Just as the sponsors of Super Bowl XL extended their glitzy, expensive commercials beyond the game — onto Web sites, cellphones, cinema screens and video iPods — so, too, will the scores of marketers that plan to run spots during the NBC Universal television coverage of the Olympic Winter Games, in Turin, Italy, from tomorrow through Feb. 26.

The expansion of the Olympic campaigns into other media is emblematic of the efforts advertisers are making to reach consumers who are increasingly able to zip through traditional television pitches.

Sprint Nextel, for example, is augmenting the commercials it will run with daily video reports about the American skiers and snowboarders, which can be watched on Sprint cellphones or downloaded from a Web site (connect2torino.com). A member of the United States team, Seth Wescott, will be writing a daily blog for Sprint Nextel, available on the same Web site.

The video vignettes and online journal will be supplemented with scores, statistics and event highlights, which Sprint Nextel will present in a partnership with the NBC Mobile division of NBC Universal.

"It's all an enhancement to our advertising campaign," said Chad Biggs, sports marketing manager for Sprint Nextel in Reston, Va., to offer "our customers and prospects a unique, inside look at what's going on in and around the games."

"Delivering compelling content is a huge priority for us," Mr. Biggs said, to help persuade consumers that Sprint Nextel is a media company as well as a telecommunications provider.

In addition to the 275 television commercials that Coca-Cola plans to run during the coverage of the games, for brands like Black Cherry Vanilla Coke, Coca-Cola Classic, Dasani, Diet Coke and Minute Maid, the company is putting up an elaborate Web site (olympics.coke.com) to encourage support for the United States team and participation in a "Drink. Watch. Cheer. Win." sweepstakes.

When it comes to the fast-changing behavior of consumers, "We've tried to do our homework," said Katie Bayne, a senior vice president at the Coca-Cola North America division in Atlanta. "We're not just going to shove commercials at people because they will go away."

Other big Olympic sponsors expressed the same desire, to replace the old methods of frantically chasing after consumers with new ways to entice them into spending time with ads.

For example, United Airlines, which will run a colorful commercial called "Dragon" 46 times from tomorrow through the end of the Games, will also show the spot, along with a feature about the animation process used to create it, on the airline's Web site (united.com) and on the in-flight entertainment programs on its aircraft. The commercial is by Fallon Worldwide in Minneapolis, part of the Publicis Groupe.

"It's all about eyeballs," said Julie Koewler, director for worldwide advertising and promotions at the United Airlines unit of UAL in Chicago, and "laying down a strong foundation with Beijing on the horizon." Her reference was to the planning already taking place for the next Olympics, the Summer Games in 2008 to be held in China.

Many advertisers are hoping to stand out amid the crowded commercial breaks of the Winter Games the same way they tried to gain attention during the Super Bowl on Sunday: by introducing spots that have not appeared before.

The Olympics, for instance, will bring the debut of a campaign from Visa USA carrying the theme "Life Takes Visa," which replaces its 20-year-old slogan, "It's everywhere you want to be." The spots, by the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of the TBWA Worldwide unit of the Omnicom Group, will feature American athletes like ice skater Michelle Kwan and skier Bode Miller.

The Chevrolet division of General Motors will bring out the next wave of its campaign, carrying the theme "An American Revolution," which includes ads with slogans like "America's brand supports America's best." The ads, by Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich., part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, describe Chevy, using terms like "Proud sponsor of those chill-up-your-spine moments."

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association will introduce a campaign, carrying the theme "Go RV'ing," during the opening ceremonies tomorrow night. The commercials, by the Richards Group in Dallas, will feature the actor Tom Selleck as the voiceover announcer.

The Winter Games are part of a monthlong marketing blitz from Madison Avenue including last Sunday's Super Bowl XL, last night's Grammy Awards and the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19. (The Academy Awards, usually in February, were moved to March 5 to avoid coinciding with the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.)

More advertisers are sponsoring so-called big events like live sports programs and awards shows because they are considered less resistant to recording and watching afterward, when viewers often skip past the commercials.

The growth of TiVo and other digital video recorders was cited by Goodyear Tire and Rubber as the reason for the company's decision to remake the venerable aerial "beauty shots" of the Olympic venues that are to be provided by the Goodyear blimp. For the first time, animated graphics about Goodyear products like the TripleTred and SilentArmor tires will appear on screen during event coverage along with an image of the blimp. Goodyear is calling the vignettes "TiVo-proof advertising."

The broadcast and cable networks owned by the NBC Universal unit of General Electric — including Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC and Telemundo — will present a record 418 hours of Olympic coverage through the closing ceremonies.. NBC Universal has said it expects to meet a goal of $900 million in ad revenue, which would be a gain of 21.6 percent from the estimated $740 million in ad revenue during the 2002 Winter Games.

The five largest advertisers during the 2004 Summer Games — Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Motors and Procter & Gamble — spent almost $496.6 million, according to data from Nielsen Monitor-Plus, part of the Nielsen Media Research division of VNU.


Stuart Eliott, The New York Times. February 9, 2006

Copyright © 2006 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.