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Reebok International is launching its largest effort in years behind its Reebok Classic collection of casual footwear and apparel.

Reebok Classic, with its clean stylings and Union Jack logo, includes the aerobic shoes that rocketed Reebok to prominence in the 1980s. The move is part of the marketer's strategy to focus on core brand strengths.

Reebok repositioned around on-field athletic performance earlier this decade, but that business has suffered due to competition, marketing woes and an industry-wide slump.

Yet through it all, Reebok Classic has remained a steady niche performer, without receiving much ad support.

What has changed is a fashion shift away from performance athletic toward casual athletic and a cultural disdain for in-your-face, athlete superstar-studded ad messages. Reebok believes its Classic business has a leg up on upscale fashion brands tackling this trend.


"Since we're coming from a position of true sports and athletic authenticity . . . we don't have to slap the word `sport' on what we do," said Brenda Goodell, Reebok's VP-global marketing.

The "What goes around comes around" campaign, created by Heater Advertising, Boston, is anchored by a 16-page insert distributed in August issues of Latina, Source, Spin, Teen People and Vibe, all scheduled to reach newsstands by the end of this week.

The oval insert, suggesting a record, has British pop act Cleopatra; Reebok women's basketball endorser Stacey Lovelace; and a cosmopolitan assortment of models promoting a multicultural appeal and retro hip image.

The ads primarily target 15-to- 30-year-old women.

Reebok is supporting with an outdoor campaign in 10 markets, and a radio spot will tout a gift-with-purchase promotion, in which receipts can be redeemed for a CD called "Old to New" featuring several contemporary and classic rhythm and blues artists.


What's not being used to plug Reebok Classic is TV advertising. Ms. Goodell said the company prefers the more targeted approach of print.

Also, she said, the company decided TV ads could lead to consumer confusion about the Reebok brand, since that medium is used to tell Reebok's athletic-performance story.

"We'll see down the road, but we don't want this message to be at the expense of the performance brand," said Ms. Goodell, adding Reebok will continue its more muscular support of its Classic business in '99.


So far in '98, Reebok's TV advertising has focused almost exclusively on running, including a brand push from Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, launched in the spring.

The third spot in that push will break in mid-August, but in the weeks leading up to it, four thematically related spots-two to support retailer Just for Feet and two that are brand-oriented but designed to spur purchases during the back-to-school season-will air in the top 10 markets.

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