Terry Tate builds buzz for Reebok, but not shoe sales

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Reebok International's "Terry Tate, office linebacker" campaign, lauded for its sharp humor, in the last year has become a pop-culture phenomenon. But as a sales catalyst, Terry Tate seems to be as flat as the office workers he leaves in his wake.

Instead of the office enforcer, it's Reebok's real-life endorsers driving shoe sales.

"[Terry Tate] is a funny campaign," said one VP of franchises for an athletic-shoe store chain. "But Jay-Z and 50 Cent sold the sneakers."

In its fourth-quarter results, announced last week, Reebok said sales jumped 70% from a year ago, but the company itself attributed that to its footwear and licensed-apparel businesses-and not to its ad campaign or any Terry Tate-related apparel or merchandise. "During the quarter, much of the margin improvement came from our U.S. footwear business," Reebok CEO Paul Fireman said in a statement.

signature lines

U.S. footwear sales gained 17% to $228.4 million from a year earlier. Much of that was due to the introduction of signature shoe lines from Jay-Z and 50 Cent, two of the most popular rap artists in the country, which sold out almost immediately after going on sale. The seventh signature shoe from National Basketball Association star Allen Iverson also drove results.

Reebok's total net sales rose 11% to $843.6 million. U.S. clothing sales were up 7% to $155.1 million, but that was boosted by Reebok's licensing agreements with the NBA and the National Football League. Reebok is the exclusive outfitter for all 32 NFL teams, and for 19 of the 29 NBA teams.

catering to runners

Glenn Lyon, president of the Finish Line athletic-shoe store chain, said Reebok's basketball shoes, its classic-footwear line and its on-field apparel drove sales for his stores. Several others also credited Reebok's re-commitment to the running category with its Premier Running Series, which earned two Editor's Choice awards from Runner's World magazine.

The Terry Tate campaign features actor Lester Speight as Terry Tate, the overzealous employee of the fictional Felcher & Sons, who physically punishes co-workers who aren't performing up to snuff.

The original 60-second spot that was introduced during the 2003 Super Bowl was the third most-liked spot of the year, according to Advertising Age/IAG's Top Spot data. By year's end, Terry Tate films were downloaded 20 million times from the Reebok Web site, said the company.

Reebok ultimately decided not to spend $2.25 million on this year's Super Bowl. Marc Fireman, global director-interactive marketing for Reebok, said the newest storyline for Terry Tate couldn't be told in a traditional ad. Reebok opted instead for a four-minute online Terry Tate film that made its debut Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, during the game. It was created by the Arnell Group, Reebok's creative agency, and produced by Los Angeles-based Hypnotic.

Reebok two weeks ago started 15-second teaser spots for the Web film on Viacom's MTV and also sent out two e-mails each to the more than 1 million registered users on TerryTate.com.

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