Reebok, encouraged by 'Terry Tate,' expands its definition of i-marketing

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Reebok International is sold on interactive. After the sneaker maker drove tons of Web traffic with the humorous TV ads "Terry Tate Office Linebacker," in 2002, the company has decided to test another emerging interactive channel. Reebok recently began testing a video-on-demand ad on digital TV in the Philadelphia market as part of the "I Am What I Am" campaign.

The Canton, Mass., company is testing whether an audience will take the time to view specially designed interactive-TV content. "With this emerging media and technology, Reebok wanted to be ahead of the game," said Marc Fireman, global director of interactive marketing. "TV and the Internet and things being interactive is starting to evolve-everything is starting to converge. So Reebok is trying to find a way to participate in this convergence. This [campaign] is television combined with the interactivity of the Web."


Although the penetration of VOD is low now, 72% of digital-cable subscribers who have paid for VOD rank it as the most valuable aspect of their digital-TV service, according to a report by online market-research firm Jupiter Research. And VOD revenue is on the rise, projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 30% to $2.7 billion by 2009. Reebok, the No. 2 athletic shoe maker in the U.S. after Nike, is seeking cutting-edge techniques as part of its mission to reclaim its "cool" factor. The core of that mission this year is the firm's largest marketing campaign in a decade, the "I Am What I Am" effort for the Rbk sneaker brand.

The campaign began running globally in February on TV, cinema, print, the Web site and on billboards in certain cities. The advertising is integrated among channels through the use of the same celebrity endorsers and photography and film that has a "live and in-person" look and feel. Centered on sports, music and acting celebrities, such as basketball star Yao Ming, tennis great Andy Roddick and actress Lucy Liu, the effort seeks to celebrate authenticity and individuality as relevant and inspiring to young consumers.

The iTV portion of the campaign zeroes in on Philadelphia 76ers basketball star Allen Iverson and hip-hop idol Jay-Z. (Chart-topper 50 Cent had also been featured until complaints from consumer watchdog groups in the U.K. claimed his ads glamorized violence. The TV ad cycle in the U.S. was completed, but Reebok pulled the ads in the U.K., wiped them from its Web site and will not use the rapper in the ITV effort, although he will continue as an endorser, the company said.)

The TV ads, shot in black-and-white film, are interviews with the stars, discussing their lives in their own words. The bonus footage is additional remarks by the two celebrities. Mr. Iverson is shown shooting pool and discussing his identity as an athlete and a father. Jay-Z, dapper in a new suit, is having his last fitting by a tailor and talking about his childhood as a fledgling rapper.

The footage for the TV ads, VOD and the Internet was shot at the same time in long interview sessions with the celebrities. "It was Allen talking for two hours about questions we posed to him," Mr. Fireman explained. "We used one edit for the 30-second ad, but there were lots of other edits that we thought would be very compelling to our youth market."

two options

The iTV audience in Philadelphia watches the 30-second spot and is then given two options for clicking through to see bonus footage, using the remote control. Some viewers see a navigation bar appear with the "on demand" button at the bottom of the screen. Others see a full-screen promotion for the on-demand content during the last five seconds of the commercial. When they click through, they are offered additional footage of the celebrity, delivered in one-minute spots. The viewer can choose to watch one or all four of the bonus spots available and repeat them as often as they wish. Each clip is about one minute long.

The VOD ads are one more aspect of a branding campaign. There is no call to action, merely the Rbk logo on the screen while the bonus footage rolls.

What does VOD offer the overall campaign?

"The very fact that they are opting in [to see more footage] shows that the brand message is resonating with the consumers and they are choosing to get additional content from these particular stars that endorse the Rbk brand," said Rob Aksman, director-creative development at Brightline Partners in New York, the ITV agency that handled the VOD promotion.

Although VOD pioneers are quick to say that Internet and iTV VOD are different animals, some learnings can be gleaned from Web interactive creative. "Quality is supreme," said Hilmi Ozguc, CEO of Internet VOD software firm Maven Networks. "Give me a full-screen and it's got to be high definition." It has to be short. And most important, interesting. "No one is going to watch a half-hour video on the production of Reebok shoes. But they will watch something entertaining. Rap stars are entertaining," he added.

Philadelphia's digital subscribers get iTV as part of the package provided by cable company Comcast. The cable company won't say how many of its 1.6 million subscribers receive digital service, too. Reebok's target in Philadelphia is the same as for the campaign overall: males, ages 12 to 24, who are interested or participating in sports and being cutting-edge consumers, Mr. Fireman said.

Comcast measures a number of viewer reactions. Then Brightline collects this data and compiles a report, which includes number of unique viewers, total views, number of time each viewer watches a spot and whether they watch a spot to the end, among other data. No results were available at press time.

Why should marketers become knowledgeable about VOD? Because of the opt-in element in a world where viewers are finding more and more ways to skip ads, said Jacqueline Corbelli, CEO of Brightline. "More marketers are getting a sense of this-but only a handful of savvy ones are making sure they can own this space for their own brand."


The campaign started running globally in February on TV, cinema, print, the Web site and on billboards. The advertising uses the same celebrity endorsers and has a "live and in person" look and feel.

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