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There's a rave party goin' down in Phoenix next weekend, with music, games and cool eats. Sir Charles and Shaq will be there, and it's so big, they gotta get the likes of AT&T and Warner-Lambert Co.'s Schick to pitch in a few bucks to pay for it.

It's the National Basketball Association's 1995 All-Star Weekend, built around the NBA's annual midseason showcase of top talent. But this isn't your father's all-star game. That's now a mere final act in a weekend of NBA-brand entertainment.

For the marketing-minded NBA, the Weekend is its way of connecting directly with younger fans-and connecting those fans with league sponsors.

A Weekend in NBA time lasts four days-Feb. 9 to 12-and has five separate elements: NBA Jam Session, a theme park of NBA celebrities and interactive activities; a Friday night concert, sponsored by Miller Brewing Co. and broadcast by MTV: Music Television, that features among its musical acts Shaquille O'Neal; the NBA Stay-In-School Saturday, a pep rally that will be simulcast on NBC, Turner Network Television, Black Entertainment Television and Nickelodeon; All-Star Saturday Night, which will see NBA stars compete in activities like the "AT&T Long Distance Shoot-Out" and the "Schick Rookie Game"; and, of course, the game itself.

Marketer invites are only given to the NBA's sponsors and licensees, and their All-Star Weekend programs are packaged into their overall marketing deals with the league, said David Schreff, group VP-general manager, marketing, at NBA Properties.

These marketers use their all-star involvement to entertain business partners and/or drive sales.

Trading card marketer Fleer, for example, is the presenting sponsor of the third annual NBA Jam Session, which will take up 300,000 square feet in the Phoenix Civic Plaza. Fleer, which says it has seen brand awareness grow dramatically through three years of Jam Session sponsorship, has been giving away tickets to this year's event to consumers who send in entry forms at select convenience stores.

More than 20 companies are involved in Jam Session. Coca-Cola Co. is using its involvement to sell Sprite, lead brand of its NBA sponsorship. Consumers can redeem labels of Sprite and Diet Sprite 2-liter bottles for two Jam Session tickets for the price of one. Some 600 retail outlets are taking part in the promotion.

Kate Fitzgerald coordinates Promotion Marketing News. Reach us by fax at (312) 649-5331 or e-mail address [email protected]

Next Promotion Marketing News appears Feb. 20.

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