FAST FORWARD

The year that marketers have been banking on has finally arrived. The 1996 Olympics will undoubtedly qualify as the mega-giant of entertainment marketing venues, and could potentially dwarf all other entertainment promotions this year. If your company has not succumbed to Olympic fever, there's no guarantee that your alternative marketing choices will not be affected by the scope of Olympic marketing

The year that marketers have been banking on has finally arrived. The 1996 Olympics will undoubtedly qualify as the mega-giant of entertainment marketing venues, and could potentially dwarf all other entertainment promotions this year. If your company has not succumbed to Olympic fever, there's no guarantee that your alternative marketing choices will not be affected by the scope of Olympic marketing appeal. Be prepared to experience the impact and presence of Olympic-size promotions from major packaged goods and service companies nationwide (and internationally). In fact, the biggest Olympic competition will be played in the field of every retail marketplace this summer.

But we're here to talk about promoting videos through the food, drug and mass trades, not Olympic events. What are the opportunities and outlooks in 1996? The good news is that if your company has not committed to Olympic sponsorships, you still have many exciting options available to explore. When consumers reach their Olympic overload, they are going to be retreating to their No. 1 passion for entertainment -- movies. And they are going to be looking to their favorite and familiar companies to bring the best of those movies to them. Keep in mind that Hollywood has played this entertainment game as long as the Olympics and has been strategically positioning its properties to compete this year. When you look at the range of movie titles to consider, you will see they provide an appealing diversion. For example, "Pinocchio" in most kids' minds still holds up as one of the most inspiring tales of defeat and triumph and will be released theatrically this summer with a fall 1996 video release. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the young heartthrob from "Home Improvement" stars as Pinocchio, the boy, and Jim Henson's Creature Shop provides the puppetry. Additional children's titles include "Balto," the courageous dog; "The Phantom," live-action comic book hero; "Large as Life," with Bill Murray and his pet elephant; "The Goose Project," based on a true story from 20/20 about a young girl who raises a baby goose that imprints her as its mother; and yet another rendering of "Tarzan." Tom Hanks, always aiming to please, makes his directorial debut with "That Thing You Do," a story about the members of a fictional 1960s rock band called "The Wonders."

Any of these properties -- and the list goes on -- provide perfect counter-promotional themes to Olympics 1996. Soon enough, there will be Olympic videos available for promotional tie-ins, but we'll talk about that another time.

Patti Ganguzza is vice president of Aim Promotions, Astoria, N.Y.