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Sprint tries gridiron theme

The Internet service provider launches an NFL-themed version of its Passport Net access service.

First it was video rentals, and now it's football as Sprint (FON) has struck another "All-American" partnership to push its Internet service.

Sprint released today an NFL theme version of its Passport Net access. The front door for the customized service will include links to NFL team home pages, game statistics, and sports news headlines.

The ISP did a similar deal with Blockbuster Video soon after it launched last August. "The campaign started in November, and those signups were the better part of our customer base by the end of the year," said Jeff Hallock, senior market manager for Sprint Passport. Hallock would not reveal the actual subscriber numbers, however.

"The NFL has a lot of demographics about fans and there is a propensity for those people to be computer and Internet users," he added. "For people who really love football but have hesitated to get online, this is for them."

Sprint's marketing tactic is reminiscent of fast-food chain deals to promote major movies, as the long distance company vies for less Net-savvy consumers as more competitors enter the online access market.

Many ISPs are also changing their pricing models to stay competitive. Sprint is expected to announce a new pricing scheme in the next month or two, vice president of Sprint Internet Access Services Jim Dodd told CNET's NEWS.COM in June. The ISP now charges $19.95 per month or $1.50 per hour.