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College football is grabbing a growing piece of the marketing action.

Marketers are dis-covering the power of regional promotions targeting passionate local college football fans, and colleges scrambling for funds are more eager than ever to meet marketers on the gridiron.

Burger King Corp., Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade, Dr Pepper Co. and Texaco are backing significant team- and conference-specific college football pro-motions this fall, and this week Shoney's breaks a major regional promotion with college football's Southeastern Conference.


"Everyone is gearing up to tap college football as a bigger mar-keting engine, and companies that previously just tested the water are getting in much deeper this year," said Charlie Cooper, director of promotions and special projects for Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co.

Mr. Cooper's company helped coordinate a national campaign for Burger King via Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, using the fight songs and coaches of popular teams in nine major markets; the effort broke this month.

The company also helped coordinate a tie-in between Penn State and Exxon and a videogame from Electronic Arts.

Momentum is moving toward 1998, when college football planners expect to have one national championship game that will open the field to marketers seeking a true "Super Bowl" type of college game.

"The interest is already building toward 1998 when college foot-ball's marketing power will be fully realized," said Marc Kidd, exec VP for Host Communi-cations, Lexington, Ky., a promo-tion company specializing in col-lege properties.

The top game for this football season is the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2, when title sponsor Nokia's college football promotion will climax in a live halftime competition on ABC as part of the "Nokia Best Connect-Pigskin promotions

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ion Sweepstakes." The cellular telephone maker's promotion begins Oct. 1, backed by TV, radio, print and in-store support via Grey Advertising, New York.


"College football delivers a primo audience, both college-educated consumers and influential young consumers, and we wanted to maximize our participation to make people notice us," said Matt Wisk, director of marketing for Nokia U.S., headquartered in Dallas.

Aiming to surpass the marketing hoopla surrounding last year's top game, when Frito-Lay touted its title sponsorship of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in a huge advertising blitz, Nokia is taking a somewhat unusual approach.

Opening the gates to other marketers, Nokia offered sponsorship roles within its title sponsorship to 12 other companies.

During the halftime contest, three sweepstakes contestants will attempt to win $1 million by throwing a football at a designated button on a 15-foot inflatable cellular telephone.

Other prizes are available by hitting other buttons sold to each of the 12 sponsors, which include America Online, Delta Air Lines, Energizer, National Car Rental System, General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile, Radio Shack, Sega of America, Texaco and Texas Instruments.


The SEC, said to be the most aggressive marketer of its college teams, created a program in 1989 to develop long-term corporate marketing partners for its 12 teams. It now counts a record 12 top marketing partners, including Burger King, Dr Pepper, Gatorade, General Mills, Hormel Foods, Shoney's and Texaco.

The conference is currently in discussions with Nabisco about a marketing partnership, said SEC Associate Commissioner Brad Davis.

The Shoney's promo hits the airwaves this week, offering SEC fans a chance to buy a football featuring the official logos of all 12 SEC teams for $5.99; the promotion runs through yearend.

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