CONVERSE PAIRS WITH TEEN SITE BOLT TO KICK OFF EZ CHUCK ATHLETIC SHOE, EFFORT AIMS TO BUILD BUZZ AMONG THE YOUNG FOR STRUGGLING MARKETER

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Beleaguered athletic shoemaker Converse is using the Internet as its lone marketing vehicle in launching a new athletic/casual shoe.

A new, more padded version of its classic 1960s black Chuck Taylor basketball shoe, EZ Chuck, is being touted via a full-fledged promotion with 3-year-old Bolt Media, a broad-interest, teen-targeted Web site (www.bolt.com) that created the promotion in-house.

As part of the promotion, Bolt users e-mail the site answering a question: "What does taking it EZ mean to you?"

What's unusual is that the answers are posted, including some blunt critiques of the new shoe.

STIRRING CONVERSATION

Converse hopes the unbiased responses will provide feedback; it's counting on the street marketing-type effort to stir conversation among 12-to-24-year-olds, much as hot summer movie "The Blair Witch Project" did.

"With this generation, the Internet is their rock 'n' roll, their television," said Jeanne Sachs, VP-advertising sales for Bolt.

UNDERSTANDING CONSUMERS

"Bolt is gathering information so we can understand our consumers," said a Converse spokeswoman.

Neither Converse nor Bolt would disclose spending on the promotion.

Bolt has designated its sports area for the Converse promotion, which has a full-screen display of the Converse product, feedback from Bolt's users, as well as details of a product giveaway.

The sweepstakes has Converse giving away EZ Chuck shoes, as well as a grand prize -- Diamond Rio MP3 players.

Converse's efforts can only help the troubled shoemaker. Second-quarter 1999 results show its revenue skidding 27% to $57.1 million and net loss widening to $3.3 million from $900,000 from the same period in the prior year.

The company blames the decrease in revenue on lower sales of adult and children's basketball footwear, as well as the "athletic originals" category, to

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