Converse bets big on new shoe

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All Star 2000 to receive bulk of $15 mil ad budget

Converse is breaking today what it calls its biggest single ad push ever for the All Star 2000, a new basketball shoe industry experts say could be the hit the athletic footwear marketer needs to reverse its current slump.

The company is expected to spend the bulk of its $15 million ad budget behind the multimedia effort, which includes national TV and regional radio and outdoor advertising from Houston Herstek Favat, Boston.

BASKETBALL LEGENDS

The new commercial opens with a group of young ballplayers walking past an image of the reincarnated All Star and into "an arena of basketball legends" like Larry Bird, Connie Hawkins and Julius Erving.

Later in the spot, an image of the original canvas Chuck Taylor All Star morphs into the leather All Star 2000 as the voice-over announces, "The shoe that started it all is `Back in Ball.' "

The spot runs for seven weeks nationally on ESPN and MTV.

A scratch-and-win "Name Game" promotion will give away All Star merchandise. The plan calls for consumer promotion and sponsorship of local summer basketball tournaments as well.

The All Star 2000 returns Converse's 79-year-old Chuck Taylor All Star logo and ankle patch to the forefront of the company's brand marketing (AA, March 11).

During the last decade, the patch--once the most recognizable trademark in basketball--was relegated to Converse's more fashionable footwear, while a more modern shooting star logo was affixed to the company's athlete-endorsed performance footwear.

Now, citing the retro fashion and marketing movement, Converse is bringing back the patch on a shoe that mixes an older look with '90s cushioning.

Converse has reported that orders for the new shoe are strong. Retailers are confident the marketer finally has something to crow about after a tumultuous 18 months that saw an acquisition target key to its expansion plans--apparel marketer Apex One--go bankrupt and a turnover in senior leadership.

Converse reported first-quarter revenues of $86.6 million, down 35.5% from the '95 first quarter.

"The All Star 2000 is getting great reviews from retailers and the word is that brighter days are ahead," said Leigh Gallagher, associate editor at Sporting Goods Business.

In fact, the All Star may be proving influential: industry intelligence has trendsetters Nike and Fila USA following Converse with retro-looking basketball sneakers next year.

The short-term goal is for Converse to rebuild its basketball franchise; in coming years, it will attach the All Star logo to other product lines, as it once again tries to diversify.

"The struggle for Converse has always been that it is pigeonholed as a basketball shoe company. In the long-term, it will have to be more than that to compete," said John Horan, publisher of The Sporting Goods Intelligence.

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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