Slam dunk sans superstar

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Iverson's Reebok shoes sell so well, player not in ads

How hot a seller are Allen Iverson's Reebok basketball shoes? So hot the NBA star doesn't even need to appear in the commercials any more.

The latest campaign from Berlin Cameron & Partners, New York, showcases a young man who fantasizes about becoming his favorite player. The only Iverson references are a jersey with his name on the back and, of course, the shoe, named the "I3 Playoff Low." The TV spot debuts this week. The sneaker hit the market Aug. 3.

Iverson-branded basketball shoes have become top sellers. Driven by his on-court success-Mr. Iverson led his team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to the NBA Finals and is slowly shedding a "bad boy" image-Reebok's basketball-shoe sales increased 20% in the first six months of this year. The I3 Playoff Low is the seventh Iverson sneaker Reebok has introduced since 1996.

"The gist of this spot for the fan is, sure, you can wear his shoe but can you fill them?" said Jason Peterson, creative director at Berlin Cameron.

"We're targeting the 12-to-17-year-old urban males," said Berlin Cameron account executive Simon Little. "We have [Iverson] infused throughout the commercial-his lifestyle, the sport, all the things he does. Kids buy into those things. It's capturing all the aspects of Allen Iverson and making it come alive without him actually being in it."

The spot, directed by cutting-edge hip-hop director Little X, also carries an integrated brand message with Venator Group's Foot Locker. This is the first time Reebok and Foot Locker have worked together for an Iverson-branded shoe, though the two have worked together in the past, and Foot Locker has run ads with other sneaker manufacturers, including Nike and Adidas.

"Foot Locker has always been the destination for basketball products. The brand would like to associate itself with a retail destination. ... If the kid in the spot is a hero ... it will rub off," said Geoff Sills, VP-marketing for Foot Locker U.S.

Reebok spent $18 million from January through April of this year; but just $147,000 was against the I3 line, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Foot Locker for the same period spent a total of $13 million.

The spot also comes on the heels of last week's announcement Reebok would become the exclusive supplier of apparel for all 29 NBA teams as part of an estimated $200 million deal to be phased in over the next three years. Reebok Chairman-CEO Paul Fireman said the company would also design and market a shoe with the NBA logo.

The deal with the NBA gives Reebok exclusivity in providing sneakers to the new National Basketball Development League, the NBA's minor league. Reebok hopes the deal with the NBDL will give it an inroad with young, up-and-coming talent.

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