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Jets add personality to marketing effort for ‘Hard Knocks’

With the heavily hyped New York Jets to be part of the latest edition of “Hard Knocks,” HBO Sports is planning its biggest marketing campaign to support the sixth installment of the series, which will debut Aug. 11.

HBO executives would not place a dollar figure on how much the marketing campaign costs but said the team’s cooperation has resulted in the most personality driven marketing campaign around the series. HBO’s marketing team spent three days shooting interviews with everyone from Jets owner Woody Johnson to star quarterback Mark Sanchez. The group cut videos that HBO will run as on-air interstitials in the run-up to “Hard Knocks.”

In past years, HBO’s marketing of “Hard Knocks” typically consisted of action shots.

Last week, HBO debuted some of the marketing footage for a preview show called “Countdown to Hard Knocks,” a first for the franchise.

“The Jets were incredibly unselfish in their commitment of time to us,” said Mark Taffet, senior vice president at HBO Sports.

Last year’s show with the Cincinnati Bengals was the highest rated in the series’ history, averaging 3.4 million viewers each week. HBO executives believe this year’s version will attract even more viewers.

As part of the marketing plan, HBO will host a kickoff event in Times Square on Aug. 10. Fans will participate in various activities and watch giant video boards of the Jets practice in Cortland, N.Y.

HBO has bought TV ads in the top 11 TV markets for the week leading up to the premiere. It also has bought ad time on ESPN, DirecTV and SportsNet New York; and it bought ads in ESPN The Magazine, Sporting News, a DirecTV consumer magazine and five fantasy football magazines.

HBO will make the series’ first episode available for free on several Web sites, including NFL.com, HBO.com and NewYorkJets.com. “Our goal is to increase the exposure of the ‘Hard Knocks’ franchise and this show to subscribers nationally and nonsubscribers,” Taffet said.

The series is a co-production between HBO Sports and NFL Films.

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