SPRINT IS SET TO TAKE FIELD WITH NFL;NEW ADS TO PROMOTE SPECIALLY THEMED PREPAID CALLING CARDS

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Sprint Corp. kicks off its National Football League sponsorship Sept. 2 with new ads promoting its Spree prepaid calling cards.

A TV, radio and print campaign from Bernstein-Rein, Kansas City, Mo., stars Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and coach Marv Levy humorously praising the "no bills" benefit of the cards.

The special NFL-theme Spree cards-sold in denominations of $10 and $20 at retailers through October-are cut in the shape of footballs and football helmets, and feature individual NFL teams logos.

$30 MILLION DEAL

Sprint signed on earlier this year as the league's new telecommunications sponsor in a three-year deal valued at $30 million annually. The marketer is expected to spend another $60 million a year to promote its sponsorship.

"We're thrilled to be one of the first consumer offerings that Sprint has created related to its NFL sponsorship," said Marlene Waltz, director of prepaid card sales and marketing. "The cards help consumers connect their affinity toward their own team."

Sprint is also relaunching its "Dimes & Destinations" program Sept. 2, a promotion for its Dime a Minute calling plan that awards airline and game tickets for regular season games. The first give-away event is in Dallas and will award a trip for two to Chicago for the NFL's first Monday night showdown between the Bears and the Cowboys.

BERGEN SPOTS TO TIE IN

Sprint is also expected to launch new advertising featuring spokeswoman Candice Bergen that ties into its NFL sponsorship. J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco, handles.

The telecommunications marketer has three separate divisions utilizing the NFL sponsorship: consumer marketing, business-to-business and local phone service. All three have their respective agencies creating advertising that promotes not only prepaid cards but NFL-logoed pagers and local phone service.

SUPER BOWL `CRESCENDO'

"Beginning with the first week of September, all of our activities in the marketplace will build and build to a crescendo at playoff and Super Bowl time, when the bulk of our media will air," said Mike Goff, director of sports marketing.

Mr. Goff said Sprint is also working on several joint promotions with fellow NFL sponsors. The prepaid phone cards, for example, will be given as gifts with purchase of Sony Corp. products.

Sprint also basically finalized marketing deals with every NFL team except the Dallas Cowboys, which recently inked a sponsorship deal with AT&T Corp.

Contributing: Jeff Jensen.

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