NFL Gets Kick out of School Campaign

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The National Football League has boosted participation in its Punt, Pass and Kick program by more than 2 million children through a direct mail campaign for its new CD-ROM Interactive Playbook.

Punt, Pass and Kick is a national football skills competition for boys and girls ages 8-15 that started in the 1960s and, thanks to the NFL-sponsored instructional CD-ROM, will become part of the physical education curriculum in 9,000 elementary and middle schools.

The CD-ROM, developed by Media Designs Interactive, New York, contains audio and visual aides, including messages from NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Kordell Stewart, instructional footage on how to conduct a competition, suggested itinerary for gym classes and information on how to e-mail scores for tabulation. Nearly 2.3 million students will be taught football fundamentals in a structured, four-week class and then get a chance to compete in their school's competition.

The Hibbert Group, Trenton, NJ, a literature fulfillment, direct marketing and database management firm, conducted the campaign for the NFL, New York. A 76,824-piece mailing dropped earlier this year to PE department chairmen or principals at schools selected from a compiled list rented from list broker Market Data Retrieval, Shelton, CT. The mailing included a letter from the NFL's Youth Marketing Group and an application.

Schools applied for the program by fax, regular mail and e-mail, including on the application the number of students who would participate, the planned date of their event and the NFL team affiliated with their locality. Competition kits were mailed out in late August with the CD-ROM, playbooks, junior size footballs, kicking tees, tape measures, posters, certificates unique to each team's market and ribbons for contest winners.

The CD-ROM replaces the tracking of results with an electronic scoring system that collects results and e-mails them to the NFL for tabulation. Competition winners will be posted on the NFL Web site,

"This paves the way for [the NFL] to do digital education programs in the future, as the Web grows," said Jim Wexler, vice president of marketing for Media Designs. "They had the vision to say, 'We'd better start now.' "

The campaign generated a response rate of between 12 and 13 percent, according to Neil Paternoster, senior account manager for the Hibbert Group, and the NFL expects to expand the program next fall.

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