EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: STAYING IN COUNTRY: FRUIT OF LOOM EXPANDS ITS INVOLVEMENT IN MUSIC GENRE

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Fruit of the Loom ain't backing away from its sponsorship of country music, though sales of country recordings fell 18% in the last quarter of 1996.

Last week, the apparel marketer announced it's adding new on-site consumer events to its 60-city Country Comfort Music Series, starring big-name artists and a retailer-linked promotion next fall.

The company also expects to see the biggest country music crowd in history at its second annual Country Fest '97 mega-concert slated for June 14 at Dallas' Texas Motor Speedway, with performers including Vince Gill, Wynonna, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels and Travis Tritt. Country Fest '96 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway drew 240,000, and more are expected this year.

RELATING TO CUSTOMERS

Unfazed by the recent slump in country music record sales, Fruit of the Loom VP-Marketing Mac McKeithen said: "Country music relates directly to the lifestyles of our customers. Radio listenership still is quite strong, and we feel the record sales will rebound in the next 12 to 18 months."

New at each tour stop will be the Country Comfort Experience, an on-site consumer event featuring a virtual Wild Horse Saloon, country line-dancing lessons and the country music memorabilia collection of Marty Stuart.

Like last year, two Fruit of the Loom proofs-of-purchase will be good for a free ticket to Country Fest '97; tickets sold separately cost $15 each for Country Fest or tour concerts.

New this fall is a "Fantasy Concert Weekend" promotion, which will likely feature a retail tie-in.

Portions of the entire series of music events, including Country Fest '97, will be covered on The Nashville Network, Fruit of the Loom's media partner.

Excerpts also will be woven together for a prime-time telecast event.

National print ads and point-of-purchase materials back the sponsorship and tour, along with local TV, newspaper and radio ads created by Leo Burnett Co., Toronto. Cable spots produced in-house will air primarily on TNN and Country Music Television.

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