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Reebok International next week begins an ad push for its budding soccer business, intensifying the competition among the athletic footwear and apparel powers for market share and prominence in the sport.

The campaign from the industry's No. 2 player comes just as Nike has begun its own ad push behind soccer. Both efforts are part of larger summertime marketing programs, anchored by separate tournaments featuring international teams the marketers sponsor.

That Nike and Reebok own their respective events represents a significant advancement in their sports marketing tactics, and establishes a precedent for their future soccer marketing.


The two giants will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in soccer over the next five years to boost their businesses and solidify their positioning as global brands.

The soccer business at retail has been estimated at $1 billion.

Reebok wouldn't disclose how much it will spend against the coming TV campaign, which features Eric Wynalda, a star on the U.S. national team. The campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, consists of one 60-second spot and three :30s, and will air on Major League Soccer telecasts on ESPN2 and on other cable and broadcast TV sports programming.

Nike launched its soccer push April 18 with a spot from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., featuring MLS star Brian McBride. Upcoming spots will feature notables Jorge Campos and Mia Hamm; the agency last week shot footage of Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo at a Nike-sponsored event in Miami for a series of global ads.

It's significant to both companies that they are using soccer to make brand statements, supported with budgets more commonly spent on sports that have larger media profiles in the U.S.

"Our 12-to-17-year-old consumers relate to soccer as much as any other sport because they've grown up playing it," said Peter Moore, senior VP-global soccer and rugby at Reebok.


Event marketing is critical to each company's strategy. Reebok is bringing to the U.S. four international pro teams that it sponsors to take part in its first Reebok Cup, July 25 and 27 in Miami and Chicago. Reebok will sell TV rights and secondary sponsorships.

Such events are changing the face of traditional soccer marketing. They allow marketers to recoup expensive team sponsorships through ticket sales and global TV rights. They also build demand for teams' licensed apparel.

There has been some grousing within soccer that the newcomers, specifically Nike, risk ill will among fans by basically buying their way into the sport. Event marketing helps provide these companies with credibility.

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