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The National Football League and Sprint Corp. are teaming up to make January the NFL's version of college basketball's "March Madness."

The league's marketing arm, NFL Properties, has created an annual playoff branding concept for ABC, CBS and Fox.


The promotion, "The NFL Playoffs: Destination New Orleans," will get extensive on-air exposure. The graphic promoting the drive to reach the city, site of Super Bowl XXXI, will be sent out to sports media for use in their coverage of the playoffs. The NFL has created "sister logos" for each stage of the playoffs, starting with the wild-card games.

"What we've done is create a lightning rod for our various business partners and our fans," said Howard Handler, VP-marketing at NFL Properties. "We [have] one of the best calendars in sports

.*.*.and this give us a chance to give part of it greater definition."

Likely to be called "The NFL Playoff Challenge," the interactive Sprint phone promo will break the week before the playoffs. Consumers will be asked to predict the Super Bowl winner. Sprint executives wouldn't disclose spending, but the telecommunications giant is a $30-million-a-year NFL sponsor.

The promotion, from Clarion Performance Properties, Greenwich, Conn., is similar to a promotion Sprint has during the NCAA's college basketball tournament.

The NFL effort will be supported with print, TV and Web advertising, with agency assignments to be determined. Sprint will run a four-page advertorial in Sports Illustrated and sponsor a syndicated documentary about the NFL playoffs, "Second Season."


"We wanted a link into a time period when NFL awareness is at its peak," said Mike Goff, Sprint's director of corporate sponsorships and event marketing. "The NFL has realized that the playoffs really have been an underleveraged opportunity."

Mr. Handler said that NFL Films is creating playoff-themed TV spots with the league's "Feel the power" tagline as part of the effort.

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