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As it tips off its 50th anniversary celebration this week, the National Basketball Association is reminding young fans that the sport was around long before Michael Jordan and will be around long after he retires for good.

A new campaign from Fallon McElligott Berlin, New York, begins with ads in Sports Illustrated, USA Today and other publications, carrying the tagline, "1946 to now. NBA at 50. To be continued .*.*. ."


One ad features past and present NBA greats, with copy that reads, "The greatest player of all time comes along once every generation." A second ad features seven NBA rising stars and reads, "Before Jordan was Jordan, he was the next Dr. J. Who's next?"

The campaign also will include new NBA Entertainment 50th anniversary "I love this game" TV spots that will have NBA legends Julius Erving and Magic Johnson recalling their signature moments.

SI and Turner Network Television are teaming for a 16-week advertorial/TV campaign, "One on One," with former and current NBA stars commenting on each other. Vignettes on TNT and TBS, both NBA carriers, will complement SI ads, launching this week.

The print and TV ads were packaged into sponsorships that also include time on an "NBA at 50" documentary that will air on TNT Nov. 13. American Express Co., Chrysler Corp., Nestle and Starter Corp. are the sponsors.

The ads mark the beginning of an extensive "NBA at 50" marketing program that culminates with the all-star game in February.

Some programs are designed to be revenue generators. Others, however, are meant to evoke the league's rich history, in part to ensure its post-Jordan future.


"Our entire organization sees the opportunities in leveraging our history in our marketing communications. We see the `NBA at 50' in general as the first step in a process to build on our depth," said Bill Daugherty, NBA Properties' VP-business development.

The effort begins when the Toronto Raptors host the New York Knicks on Nov. 1, 50 years to the day after the Toronto Huskies hosted the Knicks in the first NBA game. Both teams will wear retro uniforms; Champion Products is marketing a full line of retro and classic jerseys, the latter based on those of a select group of retired players.

In support, Sports Authority has teamed with AmEx to offer a free NBA video when consumers purchase $50 of products with their AmEx card.

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