MARKETING CHIEF SAYS REEBOK CONTENT TO BE NO. 2 TO NIKE

Profits Up 34%; Launches First Branding Campaign in 10 Years

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the wake of launching its biggest branding work in almost 10 years, an estimated $50 million global campaign, Reebok International's new chief marketing officer said the sneaker and apparel giant is content to be a profitable No. 2 behind Nike.
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The campaign is the first major work from New York agency McGarry Bowen since new chief marketing officer Dennis Baldwin added the independent shop to Reebok's roster last year. The creative features a mix of Reebok's athletic endorsers, musicians and actors.

Re-connecting again
"We needed to re-engage and become relevant again," said Brian Povinelli, Reebok's vice president of global integrated marketing. "We gained a lot of momentum with the young urban male but we'd like to re-connect again."

The print work has already broken in several March magazine titles. The first TV spot breaks Feb. 20 during the National Basketball Association's All-Star Game and features basketball star Allen Iverson, the company's premier endorser.

The campaign, expected to last 18 to 24 months, carries the tagline: "I Am What I Am."

Sports and hip-hop
In addition to Mr. Iverson, the campaign utilizes rap stars Jay-Z and 50-Cent -- both of whom have signature shoe lines with Reebok -- tennis star Andy Roddick, NBA star Yao Ming and actress Lucy Liu.

The 60-second commercial features Mr. Iverson playing pool and talking about his image, how he sees himself and how others perceive him. The print work features a candid picture of each endorser on one side, and a quote superimposed over an image that is meant to depict the subject. In Jay-Z's case, for instance, he is seen on the left wearing an immaculate suit. On the right, his quote -- "I got my MBA from the Marcy Projects" -- is shown above a stark, black-and-white photo of the Brooklyn housing project where he grew up.

'I Am What I am'
Mr. Baldwin did not confirm any dollar figures for the campaign, but did say it was one of the biggest in Reebok's history. "I Am What I Am" is the first branding work from the company since the "Planet Reebok" campaign in 1996.

"We haven't spent against a single idea like this in at least 10 years," he said.

Reebok is riding unprecedented financial success. The Canton, Mass.-based company announced fourth-quarter earnings last month and reported the highest sales results in its history. Excluding a one-time benefit, profits were up 34% compared to a year ago. Its full-year profit was up 26% from 2003.

But it remains a distant second behind Nike. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Nike controls about 36% of the U.S. market while Reebok is at 14%.

But Mr. Baldwin said the sneaker and apparel company is content to be a profitable No. 2 behind Nike.

"Focusing on Nike isn't nearly as important as defining our own position and an area we can own in the market and be a clear alternative to them," Mr. Baldwin said. "Look, most industries become a two-brand race and we want to be one of the two brands that come out of people's mouth first."

Product placement projects
Mr. Baldwin also said Reebok is looking to product placement more as well. The company logo will be featured in the upcoming remake of the prison-football movie The Longest Yard, and Reebok also has licensing rights to sell the "Mean Machine" jerseys and apparel that were prevalent in the first film 30 years ago, as well as the remake.

"Product integration has worked for us dating back three, four years to the Survivor program," Mr. Baldwin said. "We were one of the first to jump on that in a big way and we're going to continue to do that."

Mr. Povinelli said Reebok is also involved with a show in development on cable's Spike network called Super Agent, a takeoff on The Apprentice in which contestants compete to become a sports agent. Reebok filmed a segment for the show in Jacksonville, Fla., during last week's Super Bowl. The show is slated to run this fall.

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