Super publicity is show's 'Lombardi' trophy

Dan Lauria plays the title character in "Lombardi", Dan Lauria plays the title character in "Lombardi", a new drama which looks at iconic Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi. Photo Credit: Ari Mintz

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When the producers of "Lombardi" were plotting marketing strategy, a big part of it was using the NFL and its personalities to persuade sports fans it's OK to take in a Broadway show.

It has worked beyond reasonable expectations and helped the show's modest business success, with ticket sales recently extended to June.

The publicity has ranged from player endorsements to a stir over the Miami Dolphins practicing at the Giants' facility because they arrived a day early for a game against the Jets so they could attend the play.

Nothing, though, has compared to what happened over the past few days.

It began with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady going to the Saturday night show with his wife, model Gisele Bundchen, even though the Jets and Indianapolis Colts were battling on the field at the time.

Brady talked about his conflict during his Monday radio appearance, saying he checked scores during the play and got home to watch the second half.

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Later Monday, Jets coach Rex Ryan tweaked Brady, saying that if Peyton Manning were in that position, he would have watched the game live.

Marketing gold!

Co-producer Tony Ponturo wouldn't put a dollar number on the free publicity, but it surely was substantial.

"Clearly, it's gotten attention," he said. "He was very gracious at the show and seemed to enjoy it very much and was very gracious to come back and talk to the cast.

"I like to think that he was getting inspired by the Lombardi legend."

Ponturo said the important thing about the play's many celebrity visitors, from Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to radio personality Mike Francesa, is not their mere presence but their positive reviews.

"If it wasn't a good play with good performances, I don't think the word-of-mouth would be as strong as it is," Ponturo said. "It's more than just that they came. They were inspired enough and impacted enough to tell people to come, as well."

There were doubts about the viability of a football theme on Broadway, but the show's success might pave the way for future sports-related productions.

Said Ponturo, "I think this shows you can stretch a little bit and look at some new themes."

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