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REEBOK GRAVITATES TO CYBERSPACE WILL SET UP INTERNET HOME WITH EX-MTV VJ

By Published on .

Planet Reebok will soon be orbiting in cyberspace.

Reebok International is teaming with a company formed by former MTV VJ Adam Curry to create an area on the Internet offering online chats with Reebok athletes, product catalogs and information about Reebok's community service activities.

The service may start within two months, making Reebok possibly the first athletic apparel marketer to establish a home on the Internet, a global computer network reaching more than 20 million users.

Reebok is working with On Ramp, an eight-month-old New York company founded by Mr. Curry. His partners are Ron Hartenbaum and Gary Schonfeld, principals of MediaAmerica, a New York radio syndication and promotions company.

"What we do is build domains and virtual communities for companies on the Internet," said Mr. Curry, 29, who earlier this year left MTV: Music Television to devote all his time to his Internet work. "We are building Reebok's home on the Internet."

Reebok's foray into interactivity is part of an aggressive effort to establish the brand in realms outside traditional TV advertising. Reebok recently bought an equity stake in the Cable Health Club TV network and is producing several workout shows.

Nike, the No. 1 athletic shoe company, is taking a different approach, sponsoring three home shopping shows on QVC. The first show ran June 5 and featured Nike athletes hawking Air Jordans and other merchandise.

Reebok, however, isn't likely to use its Internet home as a commercial medium.

"We don't think anything that's commercial will go over well with the kind of culture that uses the Internet," said Brenda Goodell, Reebok's VP-programming and event marketing. "Our challenge will be to develop something that's interesting and exciting and doesn't cross the boundary."

The Internet-with its educated, predominantly upper-middle-class user base-has become one of the hottest interactive mediums for marketers. New companies are springing up all over with guarantees of huge audiences and no "flames" from Internet users angered by unwanted advertising.

"What we're doing is equatable to putting up a new cable television channel, like home shopping," Mr. Curry said. "If you don't choose to go to it, you can just skip right over it."

But the draw of chatting, in real time, with the likes of Shaquille O'Neal or Nancy Kerrigan (two of Reebok's star endorsers) may be enough.

"We're creating a place for the Internet sports enthusiast," Ms. Goodell said.

Mr. Curry said On Ramp is working with 15 companies to establish domains on the Internet. Each will pay $12,000 to set up an area, plus $3,000 to $10,000 per month in maintenance fees.

While Reebok doesn't yet have plans for how it will promote its Internet service, On Ramp will promote the domains of Reebok and other marketers via links and pointers on Internet newsgroups offering information about new Internet services.

Links will also be established between the marketer domains and mtv.com, Mr. Curry's domain offering entertainment information, concert dates, album reviews and other material. The name of that domain will change at the end of the month to metaverse.com, the result of a lawsuit filed by MTV Networks over Mr. Curry's use of the mtv.com name after departing the company.

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