Hoops league recruits George Lois

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The revived American Basketball Association 2000 has signed up with veteran adman George Lois to represent the league for merchandising, licensing and sponsorship opportunities. Mr. Lois -- the self-described "grand old man of advertising" -- sold his shop, Lois USA, New York, last year, and has resurfaced as chairman of Hot Dogs Inc., New York, a promotion and licensing company handling ABA 2000.

The original ABA was launched in 1967 and lasted nine seasons before merging with the NBA. One of its achievements: It enabled talents such as Julius Erving to enter the national spotlight.

"The ABA changed the face of professional basketball in the '70s, and that's what ABA 2000 is going to do this time around," said Mr. Lois, who created campaigns such as "I want my MTV" and ESPN's "In your face" during his career. "I retired last December," he said, "but I'm still working on all these entrepreneurial and advertising projects. Of all these, the ABA is the most thrilling to be involved with."

Mr. Lois' Hot Dogs already has inked a deal with Wilson Sporting Goods to produce the trademark red, white and blue ABA 2000 basketballs. The company also is in the process of negotiating music concerts for some games and online and clothing partnerships.

Currently, the league is in talks with Heineken USA and Papa John's Pizza about possible corporate sponsorship packages, which range from $50,000 to $500,000. Package options will include TV and radio spots, arena ads and use of the "official ABA 2000 sponsor" tag. Joe Newman, ABA 2000 co-founder, said the games most likely would be telecast on cable TV.

Mr. Lois' enthusiasm for the new league is rooted in the perception that "NBA basketball has become a game of trillionaires, and almost a game of robots. There are incredible athletes, but it's boring play." Mr. Lois added new ABA regulations concerning fouls and defensive play will make the game more exciting and interesting.


Mr. Newman also said he believes the revamped rules will help infuse more life into the game. "We wanted to bring the ABA back because the NBA as it stands now is not serving the general public," Mr. Newman said. "Ticket prices have gotten so high that families and young people can't afford to go."

The ABA will sell its tickets for about $7 each. Last year, the average ticket to an NBA game cost $48.37, up 108% from 1991, according to Team Marketing Report.

The new league has teams in Chicago; Detroit; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Memphis; San Diego; and the Tampa Bay area.

"We're really excited about bringing more teams on. So far, we've got eight for the start of the season," Mr. Lois said. "But for now, on Dec. 26, we'll just send all these 6 foot, 9 inch guys out on the floor and see what they can do."

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