Reebok makes its run with DMX technology

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When it comes to marketing, Reebok International has been running in circles in recent years. But the marketer is betting its DMX technology is putting it back in the race.

Reebok last week unveiled a new ad campaign from Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, designed around the DMX technology used in its running shoes. The TV spots feature marathon runners, a fitness expert and tennis star Venus Williams.

Aimed largely at women, the ads encourage consumers to become "DMXperienced."

Reebok believes it has superior sneaker technology and is counting on that to turn sluggish sales performance around and move unsold inventory. The beleaguered athletic footwear marketer saw sales slide 12% to $3.2 billion last year, while net income sank 82% to $23.9 million. Its share of market is now 13%, No. 2 behind Nike, with 34%, according to consultancy NPD Group.


The new Reebok campaign serves as a call to action, encouraging consumers to visit stores to try on a pair of DMX shoes. Ads feature athletes who say they can feel the difference in the shoes and use the tagline "Are you feeling it?"

The four TV spots use quick-cut footage, and are set to the Jimi Hendrix classic "Are You Experienced?" The campaign also includes a print component.

Spending was not disclosed, but Reebok spent $143 million in advertising for 1998.

Angel Martinez, Reebok exec VP-chief marketing officer, said the ads mark a return to a focus on technological innovation that had been a core strength of the brand. And running shoes are the best place to start, he said.

"Running is the real defining factor of whether a technology is valid," Mr. Martinez said. "Runners are so serious about fit and comfort, they are good indicators" of how DMX will go over in other sports.

Once established, the message will be used to support shoes for other sports, he added.


Mr. Martinez returned to Reebok as head of marketing in December, after a stint as CEO of its Rockport division. He said Reebok's marketing messages have been too fragmented in recent years.

"We have always been known as the most comfortable, and we went away from that," he said. "We took our eye off the ball."

He blamed that in part on the marketer using too many different ad agencies.

That has changed. Now, Reebok uses Berlin Cameron and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London.

Mr. Martinez did credit Reebok with one good marketing move in recent years--it was one of the first athletic shoe companies to pull back on big-name athletic endorsers. In addition to Ms. Williams, the only other high-profile endorser in its stable is NBA star Allen Iverson, who will be doing his own "DMXperienced" commercial later this year.


Part of Reebok's goal is to get 1 million consumers a month into stores to try DMX products. Already, the company said some 700,000 consumers have tried on Reebok's footwear in April, and 30% of those have made purchases.

Reebok's lackluster performance has in part been caused by an overall slowdown in athletic footwear sales. At the same time, Reebok has seen increased competition from new hot sports brands such as Adidas, K-Swiss and New Balance.

Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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