CONVERSE HOPES MASTER P CAN DUNK SHOE SALES TREND: HIP-HOP ARTIST CO-MARKETS NEW ALL STAR MP VIA COMPANY'S CDS

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Music company executive and hip-hop performer Master P rapped out an unusual TV marketing strategy for a new Converse athletic shoe: It doesn't employ highly visible NBA players.

Instead, Master P is doing the selling himself.

In the deal between Master P's No Limit Entertainment and Converse, the new basketball shoe called All Star MP is supported with TV spots featuring Master P, aka Percy Miller, playing basketball in different urban venues.

Master P played in the Continental Basketball Association last year, for the Fort Wayne Fury.

Ads began running last week on BET and MTV, produced by No Limit and placed via Priority Records, No Limit's distribution company.

Converse hopes the deal will spur sales. For the fiscal year ended Jan. 2, its revenue tumbled 32%, to $308.4 million. The drop comes amid a 6% decline in overall athletic footwear sales last year, to $13.8 billion.

BEST MARKET: KIDS 4 TO 11

According to researcher NPD Group, Converse's best market continues to be kids ages 4 to 11, where it has a 3% share, fifth among all marketers.

Neither Converse nor No Limit would release marketing spending for the new shoe, but a No Limit spokeswoman said the launch will be similar to a "major record release."

Executives said this could range from $2 million to $5 million in media spending.

Unlike other basketball-shoe marketing campaigns, Master P will co-market the All Star MP with his music division's products by including print ads touting the shoe in music CDs.

NO ONE HAS DONE THIS

"No one selling footwear has done this," said Peter Blackwell, director of performance marketing for Converse.

Mr. Blackwell said that while some No Limit artists sell only 250,000 units, other major performers -- such as Snoop Dog -- sell in the millions.

"In print marketing terms -- circulation -- his CD numbers are staggering" Mr. Blackwell said.

The integrated marketing campaign also extends to the retail level. Foot Locker is the exclusive retailer of the shoe, and with each purchase consumers will get a five-track compilation CD featuring No Limit artists called "No Limit All

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