Reebok's Brian Povinelli Readies a New Reality Series

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Who: Brian Povinelli, vice president of global integrated marketing for Reebok.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Povinelli, 36, heads up Reebok’s branded entertainment efforts, having produced the "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" series of short films, and integrated the company into TV shows like CBS’ Survivor and ESPN’s City Slam, as well as movies like Paramount Pictures’ comedy The Longest Yard and video games.

Brian Povinelli, vice president of global integrated marketing for Reebok.

Credentials: Mr. Povinelli previously spent nine years at independent ad agency Doner, starting there as a summer intern and leaving as a senior account director, managing pan-European accounts out of the company’s London offices. The Cleveland native joined Reebok in 1999, and since then has launched the RBK brand and become intimate with the world of hip-hop.

What branded entertainment projects is Reebok involved with right now or are upcoming? The company will next appear in Bound for Glory, a new reality series that debuts on ESPN Sept. 20. The eight-episode series, produced by ESPN, Full Circle Entertainment (The Restaurant) and Ben Silverman (The Biggest Loser, Blow Out) revolves around NFL vet Dick Butkus, who becomes the head coach the Montour Spartans, a high school football team in McKees Rocks, Pa., and gives the team a much-needed makeover -- from the players to the band and cheerleaders. Reebok is also producing a music video for Miri Ben Ari, together with Universal Music; a skateboarding DVD featuring Stevie Williams; integration into the NBA Live 2006 video game; launching RBK Radio; and a video-on-demand initiative.

How is Reebok involved with Bound for Glory? “We are one of the premier sponsors. We really partnered with Full Circle and ESPN and played an integral role in developing the show. The kids will get much of the same treatment Reebok gives every NFL team as the official apparel outfitter. We are also bringing on several of our endorsed athletes to aid Butkus in coaching the kids.”

What about the project was attractive to Reebok? “The fact that it was centered around high school football and would allow us the opportunity to showcase the depth and breadth of our brand. It also fit our positioning of celebrating individuality and authenticity in sport and in life. While the show is centered around football, it's also about kids struggling with everyday life and trying to fit in while standing out. This played perfectly into our marketing strategy and how we strive to have the brand be relevant and important to kids.”

Besides integration into the show, what does Reebok have planned? Will the company promote it as well? “We will have a presence on our Web site, we have a thorough PR plan around our athlete appearances on the show and we have brought in Dick's Sporting Goods as a retail partner who will promote it in-store and in circulars. We are also doing a lot of grassroots marketing in the team's hometown and towns of opposing teams.”

How do you define branded entertainment? “It's really anything we want to it to be. Our goal with any marketing activity is to draw the consumer closer to the brand. In some instances it's by informing them, in others it's by inspiring them and it's always by being relevant to them. I believe if you can entertain them as well, it can help the medicine go down. So I don't really bucket branded entertainment a certain way, I challenge my team to have every initiative have some ingredients of branded entertainment.”

What can it do for a company like Reebok? “I think it can bring our positioning to life and make us more relevant to the given target. There is very little stealth marketing as consumers -- especially kids -- are incredibly marketing savvy. I don't think they mind being marketed to as long as it's done in a respectful, honest manner. If we show we understand and are part of their lives it can only help brand perception and form their desire for the brand.”

What do you look for when considering projects? “They must be organic to who we are as a company. Years ago we used to do placement wherever we could get it, thinking that any exposure was good. Now we are very focused. If the project doesn't link back to a core focus of the brand's or support our mission and positioning, you won't see us there. Bound for Glory was perfect because we are football.”

How do you measure success? “Do we show up in a positive way? Was it supportive of our mission and positioning? Did we pay a fair price? And sometimes, simply, did it feel right? This is still not a science and the day it is, it probably won't be any fun.”

More and more companies are devoting a larger percentage of their marketing dollars to branded entertainment. Will Reebok be doing the same? “If the right opportunities present themselves, absolutely. While I believe the 30-second spot has some life in it yet, I do think branded entertainment is a big part of the present and future. It's really something we have been doing for years and in some ways the world is just catching up.”

Favorite shoe? “Reebok Ventilator Running Shoe from 1991. What's old is new again.”

What's on your TiVo?Entourage, Nip/Tuck, Starved, the Red Sox, The Wiggles.”

What's on your iPod? “Everything. Good Charlotte, U2, Jay-Z, Green Day, Ben Folds Five.”

What do you do on your down time? “Play with my kids, exercise and try to consume as much media as possible. There is something new every day.”
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