Expect to see four or five different television commercials for VISA that also promote the 2002 Winter Games, an advertising executive for the credit-card company told a Salt Lake audience.

That's at least twice as many commercials as VISA, the official credit card of the Olympics since 1986, produced for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Five different spots will air for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia."The Salt Lake Olympics for us will be huge," Matt Biespiel, VISA's vice president for domestic advertising, said Wednesday during a presentation to the Utah Advertising Federation.

"As a sponsor, I can tell you we're thrilled not only to be coming back to the United States but to Salt Lake City," Biespiel said, noting that the city has everything sponsors want during an Olympics.

Besides the right to use the Olympic rings in advertising, sponsors at both the national and international level get access to tickets, hotel rooms, hospitality areas and other special treatment during Games.

Companies pay for those perks in addition to the minimum sponsorship price of $20 million nationally and $55 million internationally because the Games are seen as a prime place to entertain customers and reward employees.

Sponsors also pay for advertising -- and plenty of it. When VISA became an Olympic sponsor, the company was still being confused with rival MasterCard. Now it's the industry leader.

Biespiel credits the Olympics. "We viewed the Olympic sponsorship as a way to ignite our brand," he said, noting that few events can deliver the kind of "emotional tug" on viewers that the Games do.

VISA counters the drama of the athletes with humor. A commercial for the Sydney Games that's already being shown features synchronized swimmers and a smooth-voiced announcer asking viewers to pause for a moment and enjoy the athletic display.

Then the swimmers form the letters "V-I-S-A" and the announcer says, "OK, moment over." Even more memorable are some past commercials warning Games-goers that they'd better take their VISA cards because ticket-sellers don't take American Express.

VISA was the first international-level sponsor to sign up after the Salt Lake bid scandal surfaced in late 1998. The company reportedly paid some $55 million to continue as the "official payment system" through the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

Biespiel told a reporter after his luncheon speech that the scandal has had no effect on the credit card's image. "We saw no rub-off," he said. "What we saw was that the problem consumers had was with organizers not with athletes or with sponsors."

The company reacted with surprise to the news that Salt Lake bidders had passed out more than $1 million in cash, gifts, trips and scholarships to members of the International Olympic Committee before their 1995 decision on where the 2002 Games should go.

But before making any decisions, VISA added some questions about the scandal to its regular tracking polls of customers. "We smartly didn't overreact to the situation," Biespiel said.

The company's new sponsorship contract with the IOC does include one concession. Now in addition to being the only credit card accepted for Olympic tickets, VISA will also be the only card accepted for Olympic merchandise sold by organizers at the Games and on the Internet.

VISA is already working with area merchants to help them "borrow the equity of the five rings and bring that into their stores" by promoting customer use of the credit card, Biespiel said.

There are already two billboards in the Salt Lake area advertising the VISA sponsorship of the 2002 Games. One features a ski jumper and another a luger. The company is also talking to KSL-TV about running some local commercials.