NBA APPAREL ADS EYE KIDS, FASHION MARKETS: LEAGUE EMBRACES 2-PRONG STRATEGY INSTEAD OF STRESSING AUTHENTICITY

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The National Basketball Association next month will launch a two-prong print ad campaign for its licensed apparel that pursues the kids and fashion markets.

It's a departure from the usual all-encompassing effort stressing league authenticity.

The "Full Court Five" kids campaign, branded with the NBA's "I love this stuff" logo, will run exclusively in Nickelodeon Magazine for four months. A separate push targeting teens and young adults, called "Basketball According to Me" and featuring the tagline "I am a fan," will run in November issues of Details, GQ, NBA Inside Stuff, Slam, The Source, Spin, Sports Illustrated and Vibe.

INSERT IN 'SI'

A 12-page insert is scheduled to run in SI, with the last page promoting retailers Champs, J.C. Penney Co. and The Sports Authority.

In the new kids' effort, creative follows a group of five scrappy kids called the "Full Court Five" as they try to beat the varsity team at a local basketball tournament. The fourth and last episode will ask kids to send in their own ending, and kids who send in the cards will be entered into a sweepstakes.

The budget wasn't disclosed; Fallon McElligott Berlin, New York, handles creative.

APPAREL BIZ STRUGGLING

Industry observers said the NBA's apparel business has been struggling since the summer of 1996, with consumers burned out of the league's core segment, replica jerseys, marketed exclusively by Champion Products. The NBA wouldn't break out numbers, but the downward trend in jerseys is believed to have extended through this past summer.

The NBA is shooting for a revival in that category with a new strategy. Champion, Nike and Starter Corp. will offer new lines of authentic apparel products, supported with grass-roots marketing programs, local advertising and retail promotion. The league is hoping new products, marketed by name brands, will draw sparks.

Champion will continue to exclusively market the cheaper replica jerseys.

Relying on the marketing of Champion, Nike and Starter to push jerseys, the NBA is channeling its ad dollars at the two segments of kids and the fashion-oriented crowd.

NO NBA PLAYERS

The creative for the "Basketball According to Me" effort is devoid of NBA players.

"We wanted an approach that shows how people with an affinity for the game incorporate their fandom into their lifestyle," said an NBA spokeswoman.

But she said players will be well-represented in ads created by its apparel and footwear marketing partners. In fact, starting with this season, Adidas America an Fila USA will be able to feature their players in uniforms, per new

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