NFL, Dis launch blitz to promote 'Invincible'

By Gail Schiller
The Hollywood Reporter
August 24, 2006

The NFL has partnered with the Walt Disney Co. on "Invincible," aiding in the production and promotion of a major motion picture for the first time in a decade. NFL director of entertainment marketing and promotions Tracy Perlman said "Invincible" is the first movie to come about since the NFL partnered with "Jerry Maguire" in 1996 that the league felt genuinely represented the "heart and soul" of the game.

It has turned down participation in and partnerships with such football-themed movies as "The Longest Yard," "Any Given Sunday" and "The Replacements." "We haven't gotten into the business of partnering with films in years," Perlman said. "We wanted to get back to it with a true story about the NFL. We've been reading a lot of scripts lately and this was the one that really stood out. The image of our game is really heroic and something to aspire to and you really haven't seen that in a lot of films. We think you see it here. This movie is really about the heart of the game and it's about achieving your dreams."

"Invincible," due in theaters Friday, is the true story of Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender, out-of-work teacher and avid Philadelphia Eagles fan who never played college football but made the team at an open tryout. With its official participation in the movie, NFL team logos and the NFL shield appear throughout the film along with the authentic Philadelphia Eagles uniforms from 1976 and the NFL football from the mid-1970s. Scenes from the movie were shot at Texas Stadium in Dallas and footage from real NFL games was incorporated into the movie as well. The NFL also helped put one of the film's stars, Greg Kinnear, together with the man he portrays in the movie -- coach Dick Vermeil -- and worked with the filmmakers on making the details of the movie accurate.

"Having a movie about the most popular sport in America sanctioned by the NFL absolutely gives the film credibility and makes it as authentic as any football movie can be," Buena Vista Pictures marketing senior vp publicity Dennis Rice said. "The NFL is very protective of their brand and in order for them to be comfortable enough to participate in a movie, they need to be convinced of the authenticity of football on and off the field. I believe they are completely satisfied that 'Invincible' embodied both the spirit and essence of professional football."

Perlman said the NFL hopes its partnership with "Invincible" will open the door to more opportunities in Hollywood. "I think people thought we would say no so they didn't send us scripts." She said the NFL is not in the business of developing movies but will continue to work with Hollywood on the films that are "out there and being tossed around."

Disney paid the NFL about $600,000 in licensing fees for the use of its marks and logos, as well as footage used in the film, sources close to the partnership deal said. But a source said the league is spending even more than that on promoting the movie.

To promote "Invincible," the NFL bought such in-stadium media as scoreboard commercials and Jumbotron trailers, print ads in ESPN the Magazine and Fantasy Football Digest, and is doing an e-mail blast to 2.8 million NFL fans with the trailer attached. The NFL also ran commercials for the movie during preseason games on ESPN and the NFL Network. The NFL Web site has a dedicated page for "Invincible" and the league has organized an NFL Day at the Movies, with all 32 NFL teams hosting screenings of the movie that will be attended by NFL players and local community groups. The NFL also is bringing in about 20 players for Wednesday's premiere of the movie at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York.

Perlman said the NFL hoped the movie would encourage mainstream fans to watch more football, spark new interest in the sport from moviegoers who are not football fans and change people's image of NFL players by showing "how hard they have to work to get where they are."