FILA MASS-MEDIA PUSH BEGINS WITH SUPER BOWL: FOOTWEAR BRAND SHIFTS FROM URBAN APPROACH TO TAKE ON RIVAL REEBOK

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Fila USA, shifting its media strategy to act like one of the Big 3 of the athletic footwear category, will make its Super Bowl debut next month with an ad starring basketball star Jerry Stackhouse.

The $1.5 million ad buy means more for Fila than the launch of a new-product campaign. With the brand having risen from sixth to third place, company executives view the mass-media effort as the start of a strategy designed to close the gap with No. 2 Reebok International.

MOVING INTO BROADER MEDIA

After years of targeting young, urban consumers with ads on Black Entertainment Television, ESPN and MTV, Fila is now buying broad-reach media vehicles.

Nike will air three spots during Super Bowl XXXI on Fox, but Reebok doesn't plan a presence during the game.

"It's a chance to marginalize Reebok once again in a high-profile environment," said Peter DePasquale, senior VP-group management director at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York, agency for Fila's $40 million account. "Fila has gotten to No. 3. Now we're targeting No. 2 long term."

Fila has stolen share from Reebok in the past two years, thanks to its strength in the basketball category, where Fila is second to Nike. Fila is surging: last week it was named company of the year by Footwear News.

A long-range plan is needed. According to Sporting Goods Intelligence, Reebok last year had sales of $1.4 billion and a 20.4% share of the U.S. footwear market, while Fila had sales of $380 million and a 5.6% market share. Nike posted U.S. footwear sales of $2.5 billion and a 36.9% market share in 1995.

50 STORIES HIGH

Creative for Fila's Super Bowl spot has the Philadelphia 76ers' Mr. Stackhouse ascending a 50-story building that's still under construction. Once on top, he spots a basketball hoop on a building across the way. Narrowly avoiding disaster as he crosses girders and beams, Mr. Stackhouse dunks the ball, then winks and dives after it. As he plunges toward the ground, a parachute with Fila's logo explodes across the screen.

"We want to do things that are unexpected relative to what everyone else is doing," said Howe Burch, Fila VP-advertising.

The commercial, airing in the Super Bowl's third quarter, supports the Stack 2 shoe. The spot will be digitally drained of color after the shoot so that everything is b&w but the sneakers. The commercial will air through March, and the sneaker's launch will also be supported by print ads.

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