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TRACK AND FIELD LOOKING TO ENDURE AFTER THE OLYMPICS
Published June 14, 1996
For the past decade, track and field "has competed with baseball for the title of most-inept sports marketer," according to Roger Thurow of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. But recently the sport has made an attempt at increased exposure and after the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be broadcast by ESPN and NBC, and the Olympics, track and field will enjoy "its greatest exposure in the U.S. since the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984." The question, Thurow writes, is "can track and field stay hot in America?" Nike spokesperson Tom Feuer: "This is the one thing that worries all of us: Where does track and field in the U.S. go after the Olympics? We probably won't have the Olympics back in the States for another 30 or 40 years." To appeal to a wider audience, USA Track and Field studied the marketing techniques of the NBA, NFL and NHL, this winter bought afternoon time slots on NBC and began shortening competitions to a few hours rather than "all-day affairs." Mostly, however, the sport "is pinning its future on the creation of genuine pop icons -- from these Olympics" like Michael Johnson, Dan O'Brien and Carl Lewis. Ollan Cassell, Exec Dir of USA Track and Field: "Heroes. Our aim is to create heroes out of the athletes and set up head-to- head competition, have two or three athletes that are world class going up against each other" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/14).