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NFL Advertisers Non-Committal on Future Sponsorship

October 5, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Advertisers who stuck with the National Football League despite the players’ strike were non-committal Monday on whether they would buy time in future games featuring replacement players.

National audience ratings for the games are expected later this week, but preliminary indications from overnight ratings in selected major cities indicated audiences were smaller than usual for Sunday’s broadcasts.

″We are looking at it on a daily basis,″ said Christopher Wackman, director of advertising and merchandising for Subaru of America Inc., which bought time on two of the three NFL games broadcast on Sunday.

The automobile importer based in Cherry Hill, N.J., is not scheduled to be a sponsor on next weekend’s games and hopes that the strike will be settled before it must make a decision on appearing in two weeks, Wackman said.

K mart Corp., which bought a pair of 15-second commercials in one of this past weekend’s games, was surprised that the overnight ratings had not fallen further. But a spokeswoman for the Troy, Mich.-based retailer said no decision had been made on whether K mart would buy time on future NFL games.

NBC and CBS each reported lower overnight ratings for their NFL broadcasts on Sunday than for games two weeks ago before the strike. No games were played the first weekend after the strike began.

CBS, which broadcast two games Sunday, said the comparative falloff for the second game was bigger than for the first game.

John Sisk, director of network negotiations at the ad agency J. Walter Thompson, said he expected the national ratings to show an even larger falloff in viewership.

Steve Grubbs, senior vice for national television buying at the ad firm BBDO, said the ratings might have been inflated by viewers’ curiosity about how good the replacement teams would be and by an inability of some viewers to break the habit of tuning to NFL broadcsats Sunday afternoons.

Some companies that regularly adversrise on NFL games withdrew from the weekend’s broadcasts. The defectors included the three major U.S. automobile companies, Miller Brewing Co. and United Airlines.

But the networks found other buyers for the commercial time. A Sunday NFL broadcast will typically generate about $5 million in ad revenue.

Those withdrawing from the broadcasts cited the anticipated low quality of play in the replacement games and the probability that audiences would be smaller. Network executives have also pointed out that some of those withdrawing from the broadcasts have large unionized work forces.

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