MILLER TUNES INTO CONCERTS SUPPORTING 2 NFL ALBUMS;LITE BEER LIKELY TO SPONSOR TOUR; STARTER WILL OUTFIT CELEB MUSICIANS FOR PERFORMANCES

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Gridiron/Castle Records is closing a deal with Miller Brewing Co. to sponsor a series of concerts supporting "NFL Country" and "NFL Jams," two albums licensed by the National Football League featuring NFL athletes crooning with country and R&B music stars.

The package includes on-site sponsorship of an "NFL Jams" concert that will be staged in New Orleans on Jan. 24, the Friday before Super Bowl XXXI. Part of the concert will be broadcast on MTV, but Miller's deal doesn't include TV time. The package also includes sponsorship of a two-month tour scheduled to kick off in New York in March.

EYEING 18-TO-34-YEAR-OLDS

The brand linked to the sponsorship is said to be Miller Lite. The brewer is targeting the 18-to-34-year-old demo with the concert tour sponsorship, which will be a key component of its Super Bowl marketing plan.

Additionally, Gridiron has signed sports apparel marketer Starter Corp. to a promotional pact. Terms call for Gridiron to garb celebrity musicians in Starter apparel at concerts and in media appearances and videos.

Both Miller and Starter are paying undisclosed fees for the sponsorships.

The concert is expected to be part of the NFL's second annual Super Bowl Concert Series, which includes performances by music acts and comedians appealing to various demos.

Gridiron last week shipped into stores a combined 500,000 copies of "NFL Country" and "NFL Jams." Gridiron worked with NFL Properties, the league's marketing arm, and Players Inc., the licensing arm of the NFL Players Association, in developing the albums.

NOT NOVELTY RECORDS

"Everyone we've talked with thinks it's a great idea. When they hear the music, hear it's a real, quality product, they realize that these aren't novelty records," said Rick Garson, Gridiron's chairman-CEO.

Gridiron has been promoting the albums with print, radio, in-stadium and some TV advertising created in-house. A key part of the media plan has been to buy, or even get for free, time on TV and radio shows hosted by the participating NFL stars in their local markets. Radio play will also be key: Gridiron is planning to release several singles.

MTV helped launch "NFL Jams" with a Nov. 26 TV special. Gridiron also arranged for a number of celebrity appearances at retailers across the country on that day. Upcoming promotional activities include performances on the "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The 1997 ESPYs" award show on ESPN.

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