Heading `Ambush Advertisers' Off At The Pass

How galling. An advertiser spends millions to be an Olympic sponsor--only to find competitors running spots during the games as if they were, too. In 1992, American Express showed ads set in the French Alps, site of the winter games that year, that knocked sponsor Visa. And in the 1994 Winter Olympics, Wendy's International upstaged sponsor McDonald's with its founder, Dave Thomas, performing fantasy feats such as the bobsled run.

This time around, the sponsors aren't going to permit a repeat of this "ambush advertising." In a deal believed to exceed the $40 million McDonald's paid to be an Olympic sponsor, the hamburger chain has locked up all restaurant spots during NBC's broadcast of the 1996 summer games. Says Paul Schrage, McDonald's chief marketing officer, ambush ads are "a low-class way to gain attention." Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch also have locked up exclusive deals with NBC, with other Olympic sponsors expected to follow.

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