LATIN AMERICA;ATHLETIC SHOE MARKETERS STEP TO NEW MARKET;DESPITE HIGH COSTS, CONSUMERS FIND CACHET IN ADIDAS, NIKE MARKETING

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Global athletic shoe marketers bet Latinos want to be in their shoes. In January, Adidas announced a global buy in ESPN International, including Latin America, as part of a regional restructure.

Latin America accounts for about 15% to 20% of Adidas' sales.

Adidas' first priority is Argentina, where it's the market leader with a 40% share and where the marketer has set up a joint venture with its former licensee.

In a new campaign by Leagas Delaney, London, Adidas promotes its sponsorship of the Buenos Aires soccer team River Plate, similar to a 1995 German camapaign.

In Brazil, where Adidas has a 15% to 20% market share, it hopes to import more products to raise the brand's quality.

Adidas has done little Latin American marketing or advertising, and is watching for pitfalls like Mexico's 1000% import tax on shoes from China. A spokesman said, "It's a region, but each country has vastly different problems."

Looking to share the planet with Adidas is Reebok, which in October broke its global "This is my planet" campaign in Latin America. Working with coordination from Leo Burnett, Santiago, Reebok finds that its message works well throughout the region, with orchestration from headquarters in Stoughton, Mass.

Reebok hopes for a "unified message," said Harland Chun, regional director-Americas.

Reebok set up a Latin American division in 1991 and, to make up for time and ground lost to local and global rivals, decided to "dress up as the No. 1 brand at retail," he said.

Today, Reebok is in 20 markets, supported by 11 regional offices, with major operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Panama, and smaller operations in Ecuador, Bolivia and Guatemala. Local managers choose local agencies to execute the marketing plan.

The message in Latin America, as in other regions, is fitness, and is executed in English with subtitles. The head office directs local efforts to use its theme, Mr. Chun said. "We found we actually didn't need to translate them. We felt a lot was lost in dubbing," he said.

Brazil will get its own message, as Reebok is sponsoring its Olympic team. Reebok also is sponsoring the teams of Jamaica, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Bolivia.

Reebok holds 13% of Brazil's market, compared with Nike's 20%. But both companies are fighting high-price images; their shoes cost enough to offend consumers, but the marques hold high mind-share and quality positioning.

Nike's "Just do it" campaign worked in Latin America, but Nike delegates program execution to local market managers and joint venture partners-who often better understand the brand's influence in the region, said Trevor Edwards, director of marketing for the Americas region.

Like its rivals, Nike's linchpin to its '96 marketing is soccer, and it's using soccer stars in Mexico, Argentina and Chile for its untranslated campaign.

Involvement of the local agencies varies, Mr. Edwards said. Nike sticks to its plan of letting marketing-and not competition-drive the brand.

Contributing to this story: Laurel Wentz, London.

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