Clinton Spending Big on Olympics Ads With Trump on Sidelines

Ads during the Olympics might help Clinton connect with a demographic group where she has struggled: men.

Clinton Makes National Ad Buy as She Surges in Polls

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is planning to spend more on political ads broadcasts during the Summer Olympics than either nominee four years ago.

The Democratic effort has placed at least $5.5 million on reservations on the NBC network, which owns Olympic broadcast rights, during the 17-day games in Rio de Janeiro, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG. Based on reservations placed so far, almost 40 percent of her television spending next week will be on the national network.

The advertising during the sporting extravaganza, which formally opens with a ceremony Friday evening, comes as Clinton seeks to build on polling gains over Donald Trump following the completion of the Republican and Democratic national conventions last month.

The Republican nominee, meanwhile, hasn't spent anything on television ads since early May and has no time reserved as of now for the rest of the summer or fall. 

That's despite having raised $82 million in conjunction with the Republican National Committee during July and having $37 million in his campaign account at the start of August. Clinton raised $90 million with the Democratic National Committee last month, and had $58 million in her campaign fund.

Ads during the Olympics might help Clinton connect with a demographic group where she has struggled: men.

"The ads are a good way to go after Donald Trump's base,'' said Neil Oxman, co-founder of The Campaign Group, a Democratic firm that makes political advertisements.

The Olympics also draws a large audience of young adults, another group Clinton hopes to attract in bigger numbers before Election Day.

NBC expects record high overall viewership for the games after drawing an average 31 million viewers in prime-time over 17 nights during the 2012 Olympics in London, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Geetha Ranganathan and Paul T. Sweeney wrote in a note.

During the 2012 games, President Barack Obama's campaign spent an estimated $4.5 million on NBC, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney's campaign spent an estimated $2.8 million, the Kantar Media/CMAG data shows.

Presidential candidates who have run ads during coverage of the quadrennial sporting competition have typically stuck to positive messages, but that wasn't the case in the last election cycle. All of Romney's advertising on NBC during the games was rated by Kantar Media/CMAG as negative, while almost three-quarters of Obama's ad dollars on the network had that rating.

Jesse Ferguson, a Clinton campaign spokesman, declined to characterize the tone of the planned Olympics advertising. Most of the spots now in rotation by the Democratic campaign are negative.

Ken Goldstein, a University of San Francisco professor who is a Bloomberg Politics polling and advertising analyst, said Clinton's campaign may have other motivations for running the ads besides just trying to catch eyeballs during the Olympics.

"It might be that because of prices or availability, it was just easier and cheaper to buy it nationally," he said. "We don't see much national network advertising anymore, so that makes it somewhat unusual."

Presidential candidates typically target most of their advertising dollars in battleground states like Ohio and Florida, since that's a more efficient approach than blasting ads nationally.

After spending an estimated $8.4 million this week on broadcast, cable and satellite television, reservations so far for next week show Clinton's campaign spending a combined $7.7 million on national NBC, national cable and local broadcast stations. The local stations are in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nebraska.

The top super-PAC backing Clinton, Priorities USA, is booked to continue running TV ads at its usual clip of $2 million to $3 million per week this month. Those spots are scheduled to run next week on stations in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

—With assistance from Kim Chipman.

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