TRUE VALUE UNITES SPORTS TIE-INS;SECTION WILL PROMOTE MLB, NFL, NASCAR HONOREES

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True Value Hardware, aligned with the "Man of the Year" properties of three competing sports leagues, will combine each program into one integrated marketing effort in December, despite much reluctance among those rivals.

The retailer will sponsor a special section in Sports Illustrated that month profiling the "Man of the Year" winners from Major League Baseball, Nascar and the National Football League. The effort culminates the initial phase of True Value's long-intended strategy to own the "Man of the Year" property in sports.

YOUTH MARKETING

The next phase will be a youth-marketing push that will require associations with younger-skewing properties. True Value is talking with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, and has its eye on Major League Soccer.

"It was tough getting the three to sign off on a single ad effort featuring all three sports. They very much view each other as competitors," said Chuck Kremers, VP-marketing.

It is believed True Value was able to arrange the promo with the leagues because of their respect for how the retailer has turned the underleveraged "Man of the Year" award into a major marketing platform.

This month, during the World Series' fourth game, True Value will reveal the name of the '96 "MLB Man of the Year" in a risky but attention-getting way-by asking fans in the stadium to turn over flip cards bearing the name. Fox will televise the happening.

Last season, True Value supported its "NFL Man of the Year" platform with a series of ads profiling nominees, and by sponsoring a TV show on ESPN in January announcing the '96 winner. This year, True Value used the ad concept and media spending to support the "Nascar Man of the Year" program.

ESPN is said to want the "NFL Man of the Year" show again in January, but True Value has yet to re-up; Mr. Kremers said negotiations were ongoing.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles advertising for True Value. Sports Partners handles its sports marketing.

SUBSTANTIAL SUPPORT

By and large, the leagues are happy with True Value's marketing support, which is substantial.

True Value has set a "Two Minute Drill" promo tied to Fox's broadcast of Super Bowl XXXI. Consumers win if their scratch-and-win game piece matches the manner of scoring, if any, that occurs in the final 2 minutes of the game. The prize is linked to the manner of scoring, as well.

True Value will support with newspaper ads, including in promotion partner USA Today.

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