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Reebok International has hired a Sears, Roebuck & Co. executive as its top marketing officer, a move that reflects the No. 2 athletic footwear/apparel marketer's increasing focus on improving relationships with retailers.

Jack Guze, formerly VP-merchandise strategy and business development for Sears, will assume the title of senior VP-chief marketing officer and responsibilities handled for the past 18 months by Chairman-CEO Paul Fireman.


The hiring comes as Reebok prepares for a summertime flurry of advertising, mostly the last work from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, which resigned the account in April.

It also comes as Reebok finalizes marketing arrangements with the Women's National Basketball Association, being launched this month, and Warner Bros. Consumer Products.


The recruitment of an executive with a retail background is significant because the company wants to strengthen relationships with sporting goods retailers, the most important venue for any athletic-footwear brand.

A Reebok spokesman wouldn't disclose what percentage of its product is sold through those venues vs. volume channels, but observers say the ratio is surprisingly low for a company that's No. 2 in its industry.

Reebok acknowledged that the ratio needs improvement.

The hiring of Mr. Guze won't affect the summer marketing initiatives. He will, however, be involved in the selection of creative resources-Heater Advertising, Boston, is currently working on new assignments-and a media buying agency, once the company begins a review for a Burnett replacement.

Later this month, Reebok breaks a spot featuring its lead women's basketball endorser, Rebecca Lobo. Barring the collapse of a WNBA sponsorship that is close to being finalized, Reebok will air the spot on WNBA broadcasts on ESPN, Lifetime Television and NBC.


In July, Reebok will break the next spot supporting the launch of its DMX 2000 technology, starring Reebok employee Spencer White. The spot has Mr. White visiting Major League Baseball players Frank Thomas and Juan Gonzales and young tennis phenom Venus Williams.

Spots featuring Messrs. Thomas and Gonzales separately also are in the works. So are spots featuring National Football League star Emmitt Smith.

Those ads will be part of the brand's yearlong "Reality" campaign.

Separately, Reebok is said to have inked a marketing pact with WB Sport, the budding sports brand developed by Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Neither Reebok nor Warner Bros. would comment on the deal.

It's possible the agreement significantly involves NBA icon Shaquille O'Neal, who is starring in the upcoming Warner Bros. film "Steel," based on the DC Comics character.

If so, it could mark a significant turn in how Reebok markets one of its key endorsers.

Representatives for Mr. O'Neal wouldn't comment on his involvement, if any, in the Reebok/Warner Bros. deal. Nor would they say if Reebok and Warner Bros. will participate in a five- to six-week international tour now in the works for Mr. O'Neal, in which the celebrity would perform musically and take part in

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