NIKE FIRES UP $35 MIL BLITZ FOR NEW ZOOM AIR;OLYMPIC ATHLETES HARDAWAY AND LEWIS STAR IN 3-MONTH PUSH

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[atlanta] Nike will counter Reebok International's sponsorship of the 1996 Summer Games with a $35 million Olympic-tinged marketing campaign supporting Zoom Air, the latest evolution of its trademark technology.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., will produce up to 10 TV commercials and a host of print ads for Nike's three-month global push, beginning June 1.

The U.S. media plan calls for heavy exposure during National Basketball Association playoff games, Major League Baseball's All-Star Game on NBC, ESPN's second annual "Extreme Games" telecast and spot buys around NBC's Olympic programming.

Reebok paid $20 million for exclusivity within the Olympic Games broadcasts.

For the ads, Nike will employ its elite group of Olympic track and field athletes, including Carl Lewis and Dan O'Brien, as well as its top Dream Team III endorser, NBA star Anfernee Hardaway.

Nike will follow that up with a $15 million back-to-school push for a midprice basketball shoe collection. The footwear will be endorsed by five key NBA stars the marketer is packaging to retailers as "The Starting Five."

Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, and Dennis Rodman will suit up for the marketing effort.

Nike, with 1995 footwear sales up 37% to $2.5 billion, is the runaway leader in the $7 billion industry. Reebok saw sales dip 1% to $1.4 billion in '95.

The Zoom Air, an evolution of Nike's much-copied encapsulated air technology, will go up against Reebok's Hexalite. Reebok's Viz-Hex Collection will kick off a third-quarter marketing and merchandising initiative with a $10 million ad campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, featuring Michael Chang, Shaquille O'Neal, Shawn Kemp and Emmitt Smith.

Such high-powered marketing could help the leaders obscure the more significant innovations that smaller competitors will introduce this fall. Puma, for example, will spend just $500,000 on a print campaign from Partners & Simons, Boston, to promote its highly touted, virtually foamless Trinomic technology in its running and cross-country shoes.

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