Who Won Corporate Gold Medals?

The Atlanta Olympic Games are over, but the money games are not. Here are some some likely financial winners and losers:

Gold-medal athletes are poised to bring home megabucks from advertising spots, books, speeches, and the like. General Mills announced Sunday, for example, that its Wheaties cereal box will be adorned by sprinter Michael Johnson, swimmers Tom Dolan and Amy Van Dyken, decathlete Dan O'Brien, and the US women's gymnastics team.

NBC, a division of General Electric Company, scored big with its television rights to the Games, winning viewer ratings that exceeded the Barcelona Games by 26 percent. This bodes well for a payback on the $3.5 billion NBC is spending to cover five of the next six Olympic contests. High viewership also helped TV advertisers in general - even those that weren't official Olympic sponsors.

IBM Corp., a top official sponsor, appears to be a loser, given negative publicity of glitches in its information system, which relayed results to the media.

And there's a deeper issue for big companies like IBM: Is it worth it to pay millions of dollars for the right to be an official sponsor of the Games? Many firms say yes, but Nike Inc. and others sponsor athletes and teams instead.

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