REEBOK PUMPS UP PROGRAMMING PURSUITS

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As the athletic-shoe giants step up efforts to be content providers in a changing media landscape, Reebok International is set to unspool a series of Olympic-theme home videos.

The No. 2 sneaker marketer also is well along in syndicating its Channel One series "PETV."

Look for industry leader Nike to charge into similar pursuits this year. The sports marketing giant is an established cultural force; its product endorsers are global celebrities. Indeed, Nike executives believe the likes of Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. will be Nike's main competition going into the next century, since these entertainment companies are now sprinting into sports marketing.

'REDEFINING THEMSELVES'

"Nike and Reebok are redefining themselves as they realize they are more than just shoemakers but players in pop culture," said Rick Burton, assistant director of the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "Regardless, they have to explore programming as a marketing vehicle anyway, because these media megamergers and emerging platforms are going to change the rules and forms of advertising."

Reebok, a Summer Olympics sponsor with a license from Atlanta Centennial Olympic Properties to market home videos, will begin next month with "Winning Body Workout: Prepare to Win." It offers a mix of fitness instruction and inspirational stories from Olympic hopefuls Suzy Favor-Hamilton and Sheila Hudson-Strudwick and Olympic medalist Dara Torres.

That will be followed by another video tentatively titled "Inside the Olympic Games," an MTV-esque look at the staging of the mega-event, hosted by "PETV" on-air personalities Matt Gallant and Ms. Torres.

FOOTBALL IN OLYMPICS?

At least one other video is in development. A possibility: following NFL star Emmitt Smith's quest to make football an Olympic sport. His mission will be the focus of Reebok marketing leading up to and during the Games.

Reebok will support the first two titles with point-of-purchase and co-op ads; Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is Reebok's agency.

Intersport Television, Chicago, is syndicating "PETV," Reebok's weekly half-hour educational program about sports and fitness already piped into 12,000 schools via Channel One. Intersport last month cleared "PETV" in about 40% of the country.

Intersport is selling the programs on a barter basis, but Reebok doesn't plan to keep any of the five 30-second units it can sell.

REEBOK LEADS WAY

Reebok has led the way in programming. Over the past three years, it has produced a variety of home videos and programs for cable networks ESPN, Turner Network Television and FIT-TV, in which the company owns a stake.

"We're [highly] interested in being a content provider, creating programs for traditional media platforms and the new ones that are emerging," said Brenda Goodell, Reebok's VP-new media and programming.

Nike has created sports programs and documentaries for CBS in the past year, and it recently tapped TV veteran Ric La Civita to head up a new TV unit. And Nike agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., has just opened a programming unit.

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