SBJ/October 8 - 14, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Rival grocers have Kelly in the bag

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is throwing marketing touchdowns for rival supermarket chains Tops Markets LLC and Wegmans Food Markets Inc.

Kelly, who retired after the 1996 football season, was hired by Amherst, N.Y.-based Tops as a football season spokesman. Ads featuring Kelly debuted during the weekend of Sept. 22.

Wegmans, the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer that has an official corporate team sponsorship, has been pushing tickets for the Nov. 18 Bills-Seattle Seahawks game in radio spots. Kelly's name is being added to the Bills Wall of Fame that day, and fans at the game will receive a commemorative Jim Kelly bobblehead doll.

Wegmans sponsored the Bills' summer training camp in Rochester and, through its sponsorship deals with the Bills, is the exclusive retail outlet where fans can buy game tickets, excluding traditional team outlets such as the Ralph Wilson Stadium ticket office or through the team's 877-BB-TICKS or buffalobills.com outlets.

Neither Wegmans nor Tops is concerned about having Kelly play for both teams.

"[Wegmans'] relationship is strictly with the Bills, and ours is strictly with Jim Kelly and the Kelly organization," said Stefanie Zakowicz, Tops' spokeswoman.

Wegmans offered an almost identical spin.

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