Beginning next month, Ms. Street will become better known to Nike consumers as Sister Slope, a ski apparel-attired cartoon superheroine. In the first animated ad, Sister Slope will take on her arch-nemesis, Overlord Gnarl. In later spots, she'll tackle such baddies as the Hag.
In addition to TV and print ads, Nike is considering spinoffs from a Sister Slope comic book to an animated TV series as it seeks to enhance its image among young girls.
"We are going to build Picabo into a Nike brand leader," said Ad Manager Kerry Godfrey. "Her energy and personality appeal strongly to young girls, and we will be using her to support our girls sports initiatives."
The campaign was conceived by Nike agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., with production handled by Curious Pictures, San Francisco. Robert Valley of Maverick Studios directed the first TV spot, with coloring by noted comic artist Steve Oliff.
FIRST TV AD HITS DEC. 2
To inject hip-ness into the ads, Kim Gordon of alternative rock group Sonic Youth has been signed to write and perform a Sister Slope theme song.
Although it will get extensive play during winter sports programming and prime-time shows appealing to girls and women, the first Sister Slope TV spot is scheduled to break Dec. 2 during ABC's "NFL Monday Night Football."
In February, Nike will begin running magazine ads exclusively in teen title
"It's going to stand out because visually it's so different, so innovative," YM Advertising Director Stephanie Smith said of the campaign.
Total spending on the campaign hasn't been decided, but Nike intends to extend it through the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where Ms. Street is expected to compete. Nike has purchased exclusivity in the athletic footwear category on CBS' broadcast of the Games.
"This is a key part of our road map to Nagano," said Ms. Godfrey.
AIR SKEET SHOE UP NEXT
The integrated marketing effort around Sister Slope will also include public relations and grass-roots events, she added.
While the world's top athletic footwear and apparel company doesn't market ski equipment, next month it will launch a cross-trainer endorsed by Ms. Street, called the Air Skeet.
Nike is already a leading winter-sports marketer: A seasonally themed TV spot in support of its ACG-branded outdoor apparel and footwear launched last week, and a major marketing push behind its Bauer and Nike-branded hockey products will launch in January.
Sister Slope fits with Nike's increasing effort to create ad icons. The best recent example is the "Little Penny" campaign pairing basketball star Anfernee Hardaway with a puppet sidekick. Nike is still considering merchan-dising the puppet.
SELES ON DECK
The next athlete to get the franchise treatment will be tennis star Monica Seles, who this summer was positioned as an adventurous, James Bond-like heroine. More Seles spots in that vein are on the way.