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The National Football League is looking to trumpet the start of its 1997 season through marketing tactics including partnerships with Miller Brewing Co., Warner Music Group, Kmart Corp. and USA Today.

The NFL is branding the Labor Day weekend "Kickoff '97," and activities will include a lavish, Miller-sponsored beach party-with flag football-in Wildwood, N.J., that could be a multimarket program next year. The local Fox affiliate will cover the event and feed footage to the Fox network.


In the first week of September, the league also will launch an ad campaign created in-house and bearing the "Feel the power" tagline used in the previous two seasons.

Among other projects, NFL Properties has teamed with Warner to create a music video supporting "The Lonesome Kicker," a cut on a new album from comedian Adam Sandler. The video will be delivered to MTV at the end of the month.

The video was directed by Greg Kohs, a prominent NFL Films director, and features several popular Pittsburgh Steelers players, including quarterback Kordell Stewart.

The virtual endorsement of Mr. Sandler lends credence to the NFL's claim of being pop entertainment.

"He's incredibly relevant to an important segment of our fan base-teens and young adults," said Howard Handler, NFL Properties senior VP-marketing and fan development.

NFL Properties will work with Warner Music, radio stations and record retailers in seven key markets to stage midnight release parties for the album.


To further reinforce its popular culture positioning, the NFL has stepped up its efforts in Hollywood.

Last week, Coca-Cola Co. and the NFL broke a "Kickoff '97"-touting movie trailer on 14,000 screens.

In addition, the league is offering Walt Disney Co. creative assistance and handling product placement for "The Field-Goal Kickin', Garbage-Pickin' Pittsburgh Phenomenon," slated for ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney."

The TV movie-ABC hasn't finalized airdate-promises to be a veritable catalog of NFL licensed merchandise, from apparel by Champion Products, Pro Player and Reebok International, to a host of lifestyle products such as coolers, calendars and Christmas lights.

Beyond the lights of Hollywood, Kmart will adorn its 2,200 stores with "Kickoff '97" signage and give away 200,000 team posters. USA Today will place "Kickoff '97" signage on 35,000 newspaper boxes.

The NFL will go after kids with "Play Football: Kickoff '97," an ad-free 24-page preview to the new season. More than 1.5 million copies will be circulated as an insert in issues of Disney Adventures and Sports Illustrated for Kids hitting

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