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Winter Olympics advertising runs the gamut

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The Olympics commands the world’s largest television audience. Most people in the world, at least four billion of the seven billion total, see at least some part of televised Olympic events. This is a unique opportunity for advertisers and sponsors to aggregate a huge audience and to project an image that will command global attention.

Different advertisers have taken distinctly different paths on this route and not every advertising program is going according to plan. Advertisements shown to U.S. primetime audiences for Chobani Yoghurt do a good job of linking the product to the Olympics, showing actual Olympic athletes eating Chobani as part of their daily regimen.

Citibank is emphasizing philanthropy. Its television spots during Olympic broadcasts feature 2010 figure skating Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek coaching youth sports programs. The spots reinforce the themes of Citibank’s “Every Step of the Way” athlete grant program, a much needed step that recognizes the need to help fund athlete training and travel to achieve peak performance. But there is no call to action to the viewers.

United Airlines takes a team approach inviting fans to fly the “Team USA friendly skies.” Combining two of the most recognized brand identities in the USA in one ad is a good start. This high energy television spot shows what it would be like if the athletes were actually dressed for competition and doing their warm-ups boarding their flight. It’s not quite reality, but a flight of fancy is just what many airline travelers are looking for on their next leisure trip.

UnderArmour, on the other hand, picked a tough spot with its spot. While UnderArmour sponsors USA Bobsled and Skeleton, which has clinched a total of five medals so far and is favored in the Four Man Bobsled finals this weekend, the brand’s Olympic campaign features Speed Skating. Team USA’s skaters turned in respectable performances in Speed Skating, but did not win any medals. This sports marketing savvy sponsor will have lots of opportunities to capitalize on its sponsorship of the top performing Bobsled and Skeleton athletes when they return home, but it will have to reach into its budget reserves to get the best visibility.

TeamUSA sponsors Liberty Mutual and at&t are in a different tough spot with their online advertising campaigns. Their banner ads in the Olympics section of Fox Sports Online are obscured by article text with margins that overlap the advertising. (See screen shot.) Maybe they will achieve better results if they switch their online advertising campaigns to!