INTERACTIVE;NFL, ESPN, STARWAVE TAKE WEB STRATEGY TO NEW LEVEL FOOTBALL SITE GETS MAKEOVER BY NET EXPERTS

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The National Football League, Starwave Corp. and ESPN are partnering to present a new and improved version of NFL.com.

Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade and Sprint Corp. have signed as charter sponsors for the site, relaunching Sept. 1 (http://www.nfl.com). Although initial spending by Sprint and Gatorade is undisclosed, a 12-month sponsorship on the site goes for about $200,000; sponsorship of the five-month football season-excluding the Super Bowl-costs $143,000.

"Last year's NFL site focused on programming, not advertiser value," said Ann Kirschner, VP-NFL Interactive. "We want the site to gradually evolve from season to season. This year we're concentrating on advertisers who can bring a message to the fans."

SPRINT'S CYBER SHOWDOWN

As part of a bigger telecommunications sponsorship deal Sprint signed with the NFL earlier this year for $40 million, Sprint will be the official sponsor of an area called the Cyber Showdown, which features a weekly real-time chat with two NFL opponents.

"The NFL.com sponsorship was a very specific part of the overall NFL sponsorship for Sprint," said Rich LeFurgy, VP-advertising and product development at Seattle-based Starwave.

Gatorade-currently a Starwave client-will sponsor an area called Coach's Corner, which plays off the coach's traditional dousing with Gatorade after big wins.

REAL-TIME GAME-DAY STATS

New features of the site will include real-time game-day statistics, a weekly injury report, NFL news and a weekly game preview.

The NFL, Starwave and ESPN are selling ads collaboratively, focusing first on current NFL sponsors like McDonald's Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nike.

Starwave this month will launch an online advertising campaign to promote NFL.com. ESPN and the NFL will also promote the site via traditional media, both during televised games on network and cable TV and in print.

"The significant value of the partnership is the tremendous cross-promotional power we get from the combination of NFL and ESPN properties across various platforms including the Web and TV," said Tom Hagopian, general manager of ESPNET.

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