CONVERSE PINS FUTURE ON SEPTUAGENARIAN BRAND

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Converse will attempt to amplify its dimming star by repositioning around its enduring 79-year-old Chuck Taylor All Star brand.

For the first time since the mid-1970s, Converse will put its famous patch bearing the Taylor signature and All Star logo on a new line of performance footwear. While the shoes in the All Star 2000 collection look like those old school canvas Converse sneakers now hot among retro-cool Generation Xers, the new basketball shoes are modern, from the leather upper to Converse's React heel cushioning system.

MUCH-NEEDED INTRO

The shoe, to arrive in stores in July, is emerging as a much-needed fix for Converse, which slipped to No. 7 in the athletic footwear industry in 1995 from a virtual three-way tie for third in 1994 with Fila USA and Adidas USA, according to Sporting Goods Intelligence.

Retail bookings already have doubled the number of orders made for back-to-school product last year.

The corporate repositioning and the introduction of the collection will be supported with a $5 million-plus ad campaign.

A TV spot from Houston Herstek Favat, Boston, will run for five weeks on ESPN, Fox and MTV: Music Television, as well as in youth-targeted programming in 15 spot markets. Prints ads will run in national sports publications.

DR. J, BIRD ONBOARD

Key endorsers Kevin Johnson and Latrell Sprewell will team with past Converse icons Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Larry Bird in ads.

In addition to point-of-purchase materials, a consumer promotion is being designed that will allow consumers to vote for their favorite "All Star" basketball move of all time. Converse is talking with ESPN, Fox and MTV about serving as the promotion's media partner.

As for endorsements, the shoes will be first worn at the 1996 Summer Olympics by members of the women's USA Basketball team. In the fall, all Converse athletes save Larry Johnson will wear the All Star 2000 during the 1996-97 NBA season.

Converse has long been the official shoe of the NBA.

The campaign will receive a significant portion of Converse's 1996 ad budget, but executives won't disclose how much. Last year, the company spent about $20 million on advertising.

"We're taking our various equities and melding them into a single brand image," said Mark Shuster, recently appointed director of global marketing. "Plus, by linking back to All Star and the old glory days of the NBA, we're reminding consumers of our place in basketball's history."

MORE LINES COMING

Converse will introduce two other basketball lines in September as part of this strategy, the Chuck Taylor Collection and the All Star Collection. In the spring of 1997, Converse will take the All Star brand into cross-training with a new line.

Overall, Converse will concentrate on four key categories-basketball, cross-training, fashionable athleisure and kids-after unsuccessfully trying to diversify during the previous two years.

Converse also will introduce during the back-to-school season another basketball collection, consisting of more modern-looking footwear, anchored by the Illusion, to be endorsed by top Converse athlete Larry Johnson.

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