Moreover, he had to do it in a way that would appeal to Fox's younger viewers but not turn off the NFL's core audience of older males watching pro football's head-butts on their same local CBS station for 40 years.
"There were people who spent their entire lives watching football on CBS," says Mr. Dolgin, 35.
It wasn't just Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch's $1.6 billion investment in the National Football Conference telecast rights at stake, but possibly the entire future of the young network itself.
"If we even lost 2%, or 3%, of the people watching football, we could have been in big trouble. And the expectation in the marketplace was that we could lose as much as 15% of the audience," recalls Mr. Dolgin.
To redirect armchair quarterbacks, Mr. Dolgin started a marketing blitz that combined traditional elements with a healthy dose of Fox's brashness. The themeline: "The Same Game. New Attitude."
Along with the tagline came unconventional, often irreverent promo spots featuring NFL players, but with a twist. Since most viewers don't get to see the faces of their favorite NFL stars hidden under a helmet during the game, Mr. Dolgin devised an "Under The Helmets" campaign focusing on off-field antics. One, for example, featured an NFL lineman performing "Amazing Grace."
Mr. Dolgin also blanketed every major NFC market with off-air media, including giant 40-foot teaser boards at key traffic routes.
"In New York, we placed them at all the major entrances to the city. The message said: `The Giants Are Moving'.*.*. Then we would come back two weeks later and say: `The Giants Are Moving To Fox 5."'
The blitz was perhaps bigger than any other promotion for a network TV event, generating about 10,000 seconds of on-air promo time; more impressions, Mr. Dolgin estimates, than the Big 3 nets spent together to promote football the previous season.
Mr. Dolgin also negotiated a "Watch and Win" promotion with McDonald's, offering Super Bowl tickets that generated another 1 billion impressions in-store.
"This wasn't marketing genius; it was necessity," he says. "We had too much at stake not to make the investment in marketing."