EVENTS & PROMOTIONS;HITTING THE ROAD;NBA ENLISTS FLEER AND AMEX FOR A U.S. TOUR ABOARD THE NEW JAM VAN;FLEER RIDES ALONG;GRASSROOTS APPEAL

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When the fans can't come to you, sometimes you have to go to the fans. That's what the National Basketball Association is doing, taking its first-ever touring interactive basketball experience to 80 cities and towns with no NBA home team.

The Jam Van, a 67-foot tractor-trailer tricked out with hoops, courts and interactive game-playing stations, hits the road this week, offering NBA entertainment, promotions and contests to youths and young adults as part of the NBA's ongoing grassroots outreach marketing efforts.

The extravaganza debuts this weekend in San Antonio, site of the Feb. 11 NBA All-Star Game to be broadcast on NBC. The unveiling will be amidst the fourth annual NBA Jam Session, the popular on-site interactive basketball fanfest that inspired the road show. Jam Session runs Feb. 8 to 11; the Jam Van begins its cross-country tour immediately afterward.

Fleer Corp., longtime sponsor of the Jam Session, is co-sponsor of the Jam Van along with first-time Jam Session sponsor American Express Co. Fleer promotes its NBA Basketball Cards, and American Express hopes to reach college students and the youth market via the Jam Van.

AmEx has heavied up its marketing to young adults with a Web site and charge card products designed for college students.

"They're highly valued customers of American Express," said Andy Wing, AmEx's VP-promotions and events.

Like the Jam Session, the Jam Van offers a wide range of free games and events designed to encourage play and participation; wherever it goes it will be set up at fairs, festivals, concerts, shopping malls and on campuses.

"With the Jam Van, we want to extend the same excitement and grassroots interest in basketball and the NBA to fans who might not live near an NBA team," said Jud Perkins, president, NBA Events & Attractions.

GMR Marketing, Brookfield, Wis., coordinates the promotion, which is expected to reach thousands.

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