NIKE FAVORS EARLY START ON ADS FOR HOCKEY LINE: CAMPAIGN TO KICK OFF 2 MONTHS BEFORE PRODUCTS HIT STORE SHELVES

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Nike's first swoosh-branded hockey skates and other equipment won't arrive at retail until February, but its extensive ad campaign in support of the product launch is being readied early.

Nike will launch the "Disgruntled Goalies" campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., in the next week, about a month before its original launch date.

The campaign consists of print ads, six 30-second spots and one :60, which will probably break during Fox's broadcast of the National Hockey League all-star game Jan. 18, the campaign's original start date. Some of the :30s are being coupled with 15-second teasers that would air within the same commercial pods.

CAMPAIGN'S PREMISE

The campaign's premise is that several NHL goalies, played by actors, become so frustrated by their inability to stop Nike endorsers like Sergei Fedorov and Jeremy Roenick that they decide to quit.

In one TV spot, the goalies must resort to panhandling to get by. Another concept has a goalie giving basketball a go, but being kicked off of Manhattan's fabled, rough-and-tumble street courts because of his hockey-inspired play.

Nike wouldn't disclose media spending. The spots will air mostly during local and national NHL broadcasts. Bauer, a unit of Nike, and CCM are the top two brands in ice skates.

Nike is a major marketing partner of the National Hockey League, yet the spots are, as usual, brand-focused, and, as usual, don't tout product or league associations. But one of the goals of Nike's biggest hockey campaign ever is for the humor to raise hockey's profile among the sport's casual and non-fans.

FIRST PRODUCTS IN FEB.

Nike will wheel out its first roller-hockey products in February. The Air Accel Elite, designed for speed, and the Air Instigate, built for a more aggressive style of play, are cousins to the Nike-branded ice skates. High-end skates will be priced at about $475 and low-end between $100 and $200. Sticks and gloves arrive in the spring, too. The products will be sold through sporting goods stores and specialty shops.

Nike got into the hockey business in 1994 by purchasing Canstar, the world's largest marketer of hockey equipment.

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