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With the National Football League into its pre-season, league sponsors, broadcasters and licensees are preparing a blitz of marketing programs that will generate tens of millions of dollars in advertising and promotion activity.

Several programs kick off in the pre-season. Anheuser-Busch is mounting three separate efforts Aug. 11, one of which is a tie-in with PepsiCo's Frito-Lay that features potato chip coupons on packs of Budweiser beers.

Cross-promotions, integration and sweepstakes giving away tickets to the Super Bowl are the hallmarks of many of these big-budget pushes, which also involve Coca-Cola Co., Foot Locker, Mercedes-Benz, PolyGram Video, Starter Corp., Visa USA and VF Corp.'s Wrangler jeans.

On the TV front, NFL broadcasters ESPN and Turner Network Television are reporting strong sales and boasting of several top brands as new advertisers.

An ABC spokesman said that ad sales are "very healthy" for "NFL Monday Night Football," and insiders at Fox and NBC said the same about their broadcasts, but they wouldn't elaborate.


It's believed ABC will again be the media partner on Coca-Cola's "Red Zone" promotion, but neither side would comment. Fox has signed Miller Brewing Co. and Nike to large ad pacts; both will sponsor in-game vignettes produced by NFL Films.

The annual NBC/NFL FSI promotion hits the first weekend in October, but the prime-time TV show tie-in hasn't yet been determined.

"In a marketplace marked by fragmentation and ratings erosion, packages like these allow advertisers to reach the number of people they're trying to get in front of," said Jeffrey Mahl, senior VP-ad sales, ESPN.

Wrangler has jumped aboard the TNT bandwagon, paying an estimated $5 million for a package that makes it the sponsor of the "Sunday Night NFL on TNT" halftime report, replacing Fruit of the Loom. And Mercedes-Benz of North America has ramped up its investment on the cable nets, purchasing the "Sunday Night NFL on TNT" post-game report package, also estimated at $5 million.


New to A-B's NFL marketing slate is "Kickin' Caps Sweepstakes," in which consumers who buy specially marked bottles of Bud can win tickets to an NFL game and a chance to kick a field goal for $10,000. Lee Hill Inc., Chicago, is handling.

A-B also is expanding its relationship with Frito-Lay from last season, when they ran a late-season Baked Lay's cross-promotion that was tied to the Bud Bowl. This time around, packages of Bud will carry coupons for Ruffles and Lay's potato chips for the season's duration.

NFL apparel licensee Starter the week of Aug. 11 launches efforts targeting kids, a growing segment for Starter that it must cultivate to compete long-term with a new order of apparel giants led by Nike.


With the "Fox Kids/Starter Play Football Craze," Starter will tap the Fox Kids' TV, radio and print platforms for a multimillion-dollar ad push from Aug. 16 to Sept. 13. Tool, Los Angeles, handles creative.

Coca-Cola, PolyGram and Visa have longer-term efforts on tap. Coca-Cola at the end of August will reprise last year's "Coca-Cola/NFL Red Zone" promotion. The company will expand the program this season, with a more extensive instant-win game and multiple weekly, mail-in sweepstakes.

Visa's "Ultimate Week of Football Sweepstakes" grand prize is a trip to the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl. Eight additional winners, chosen weekly, will score a trip to the Pro Bowl. The sweepstakes will be promoted with extensive point-of-purchase.

More than 200 banks will be promoting the contests with 5.4 million statement inserts. Cardholders get extra chances to win with purchases at CompUSA or J.C. Penney Co. stores.

Promotional materials are being handled by Highway One, San Francisco. Visa also will be running a separate NFL-themed TV spot still being worked on by BBDO Worldwide, New York.

PolyGram has raided the NFL sponsor roster for a $10 million-plus promotional campaign for its '97 line of NFL videos.

Acclaim Entertainment, Champion Products and S.C. Johnson & Son's Edge shaving gel will have ads on various videos per their pacts. Champion this month will promote the "NFL Throwbacks" video on hangtags and in print ads for its "NFL Throwbacks" merchandise. Fuji Photo Film USA and Topps Trading Card Co. are also tie-in partners.

TNT is replacing Fox as the media partner for Foot Locker's "Drive to the Super Bowl" promotion, now in its second year and designed to drive sales of NFL-licensed merchandise at the retailer.

Reebok International and General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile have joined Foot Locker and TNT on the "Drive" promotion.

ESPN doesn't have any off-channel promotions planned, but it does have new advertisers, including Holiday Inn Worldwide, MCI Communications Corp., Microsoft Corp., Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Travelers Insurance Co.

Contributing: James B. Arndorfer

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