NFL STOPS THE MUSIC

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The National Football League, reeling from the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl, has canceled the concert portion of its two-year-old NFL Kickoff Live, and is talking to event production companies about how to repackage the Big Game's half-time show.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue outlined his plan last month at a meeting of team owners in Orlando. The NFL confirmed the decision, and confirmed that Mr. Tagliabue told the owners in the closed-door meeting: "I'm the commissioner of football, not the commissioner of music."

John Collins, the league's senior VP-marketing and sales, said the Jackson incident clearly prompted the change. "There's fallout, and there should be fallout," he said. "But we think we can come up with a better model for Kickoff Live."

Kickoff Live was created as a marketing platform to draw attention to the league's opening weekend. Instead of beginning the season on a traditional Sunday with multiple games, the league in 2002 moved one game to a Thursday night slot on national TV. The game was preceded by a live televised concert-Bon Jovi in New York City's Times Square in 2002, Britney Spears on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., last year.

sponsor tie-ins

Not only did the league tout Kickoff Live as one of its most successful marketing ventures, it also used it to benefit sponsors. Last year, PepsiCo introduced its newest flavor and made Pepsi Vanilla the presenting sponsor of the one-hour concert. Ford Motor Co. used the game to launch a $100 million campaign for the 2004 F-150 truck.

The league will still have a Thursday night season opener preceded by Kickoff Live on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. Mr. Collins said the pregame special would now be related to the game. Prior to the decision, the league was considering Chicago's Solider Field for the game and nearby Grant Park as a venue for the concert.

But Kickoff Live 2004 in September will not include a concert, and it remains to be seen whether that brings the same interest from the league's marketing partners.

"I'm torn," said an executive from one of the NFL's corporate sponsors. "On one hand, I don't know what the NFL could come up with that would be as popular as the concert portion and be as valuable to a presenting sponsor. On the other hand, this is the NFL we're talking about and it's the most popular sport in the country. So you know people are going to tune in."

marketing contacts

The NFL is in contact with event marketing agencies including Interpublic Group of Cos.' Jack Morton Worldwide to help it plan the Kickoff Live show as well as next year's Super Bowl halftime. Jack Morton is producing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.

"Jack Morton is just one of several production companies that we've reached out to and are gathering ideas from," Mr. Collins said. Asked if the company would produce next year's Super Bowl halftime show, Mr. Collins said, "Jack Morton has not been hired to essentially produce our Kickoff Live or Super Bowl halftime show. We've worked with some talented people in the past and have quite a few resources we can call on."

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