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Two former top marketing executives from Nike and Reebok are trying to turn a funky skateboard mutant called a snakeboard into a credible sports/fitness product.

Roberto Muller, the former top marketing officer at Reebok International, and partner Joe McCarthy, until last March director of global advertising at Nike, have helped set up Snakeboard International through their New York-based international sports marketing company, Muller Sports Group.


Snakeboard International raised $4.5 million through an initial public offering in the U.K. last month. Working with Snakeboard USA, the Muller-backed company is planning an aggressive push for snakeboards next year.

Mr. Muller, who serves as executive chairman of Snakeboard International, said U.S. success rests in the company's ability to cultivate the sport. Mr. McCarthy said he's spoken with ESPN about making snakeboarding an "X Games" event in the next several years.


A snakeboard is a swiveling skateboard, allowing for a broader range of maneuvers. Manufacturers, vendors and distributors are authorized by Worldwide Snakeboard Marketing, London. Snakeboard USA has been marketing to the U.S. skateboarding crowd for four years, with limited success.

In Europe, where more than 100,000 units have been sold by various manufacturers since 1993, snakeboarding has thrived, positioned as off-season fitness and recreation for snowboarders.

The new company still is discussing U.S. strategy; no agency has been sought as yet. Messrs. Muller and McCarthy are deciding between a burst of TV or a print effort that explains the product and gradually builds the brand.

Muller Sports Group was launched in late 1995, after Mr. Muller left Reebok. Mr. McCarthy came on board in October after being dismissed from Nike for philosophical differences.

In addition to starting Snakeboard International, Muller recently bought International Motor Sports Association, which coordinates five sports-car racing series.


To capitalize on the growth of auto racing in the U.S., Muller has developed a three-year plan that will take effect in 1998, revamping IMSA's sponsorship strategy, broadening its TV exposure and creating new events and a clearly defined brand image.

"We want to create a platform where the top sports-car brands in the world can compete," he explained, "where people can see Ferraris race against Nissans race against BMWs."

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