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Nike "will once again call upon spokespuppet Li'l Penny to talk up its basketball products this fall and winter," according to Jeff Jensen of AD AGE. In addition to Nike's TV ad campaign from OR-based Wieden & Kennedy, Crown Publishers has a Li'l Penny book and Playmates Toys has two Li'l Penny dolls hitting the market. In one TV spot to debut in November, L'il Penny is reading his book, "Knee High & Livin' Large," which will be released that month. Around the "same time," Playmates will issue two dolls, one with a "voice supplied by Chris Rock." Crown and Playmates "will support" with their "own publicity, and local retailer and radio promotions" (ADVERTISING AGE, 9/15). THE MARKET: The "basketball segment has sagged lately," and "industry experts" report that '97 back-to-school sales of basketball shoes were down 10%, "with consumers scoffing at prices that last year were tolerated." As for other brands, Reebok's top endorser, Allen Iverson, was recently arrested and "his marketability is being questioned;" No. 3 adidas America has a "hot brand," but "an unproven spokesperson" in Laker Kobe Bryant; No. 4 Fila USA has Grant Hill, "an icon" who can "move shoes," but Jensen adds that Fila "must improve on last year's line" (AD AGE, 9/15). STAR FLIGHT: Kate Starbird of the ABL Reign said she has signed a shoe deal with Nike in a deal "just finalized about a month ago" (ESPN SportsZone, 9/15)....Raptor rookie Tracy McGrady, and his deal with adidas, is profiled by Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN. Robert Erb, adidas marketing exec: "We're not as big (as Nike). We don't have as much money to throw around. If we're to catch Nike, how do we do that? With intelligent risk" (TORONTO SUN, 9/16).
The next "big contract" on Tiger Woods' horizon "could be with an electronic game company," according to the "Bunker to Bunker" column in GOLFWORLD. Software industry sources tell GOLFWORLD "bidding" for Woods' endorsement "has escalated to record proportions for the industry." MSNBC.com reported that Microsoft, Sony and Sega say that they are "no longer in the running" for Woods, and CA-based EA Sports "seems to be leading." A GOLFWORLD industry source values the deal at $15M (GOLFWORLD, 9/12). ENDORSEMENT SKINNY: GOLFWEEK's "Forecaddie" reports on the PGA's endorsement picture, noting that Phil Mickelson's "service isn't as hot as advertised," as he doesn't wear a hat or visor, "which limits any club company's TV time. ... [don't] be surprised if he re-signs with Yonex." In other news, Callaway "is said to be wooing" Fred Couples, "whom insiders say isn't happy about the way things are going at Lynx." "Forecaddie" concludes with talk that the "next to join Team Nike" might be Arnold Palmer (GOLFWEEK, 9/13).
Big League Bottling is selling $50 bottles of carbernet sauvignon with MLB logos on the bottle (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 9/22 issue)....The Brett Hull "Hat Trick" candy bar was unveiled at the Kiel Club in St. Louis on August 28. The bar comes in a wrapper with the Blues' colors (THE HOCKEY NEWS, 9/19 issue)....ESPN -- The Store opens today at the CA-based Glendale Galleria. The prototype store is a collaboration of ESPN and The Disney Store (ESPN).
Michael Moore's latest documentary, "The Big One," which examines the corporate policies of Nike and features CEO Phil Knight, will be distributed by Miramax Films early next year, according to William Holstein of U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT. Holstein writes that a "starring role in a movie by one of the nation's leading corporate critics is the last thing that Knight needs right now" and "the anti- Nike movement appears to be broadening." Holstein: "There's no hard proof that any of the controversies has actually hurt Nike sales. But all is not well in the marketplace. ... Nike headquarters has turned more than a little embattled." A new Penny Hardaway shoe "has provoked complaints that Nike is exploiting inner-city youths," and a "Give Back Your Sneakers" protest is scheduled for September 27 at NikeTown in New York. In addition, Nike sales were "flat" this summer, and the company "is not performing as well as it was last year" (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 9/22). YOUNG'S REPORT CRITICIZED: In the NEW REPUBLIC, Stephen Glass examined the report by GoodWorks' Andrew Young in a review of the company's international code of conduct. Glass wrote that Nike was GoodWorks's "first big client, its first chance to send corporate America evidence" that it did "good work," but "if the Nike report was 'classic Andy Young,' it was also a classic sham, marred not just by shoddy methodology but by frequent misrepresentations." Glass added the report "lists consultants who were never consulted and includes photos of" union reps who "were not union officials." Young "deliberately avoided the most obvious and controversial question -- whether Nike paid its employees fair wages -- and, when gathering testimony" relied exclusively on Nike translators. Regarding contentions that GoodWorks listed consultants who were never spoken to, GoodWorks spokesperson Logan Ide "insists" the group was not trying to create a false impression. Ide: "It surprises me that people will say that. The heading only says we spoke with them. Sometimes it just may have been very, very briefly" (NEW REPUBLIC, 9/8). PHIL CHIMES IN: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted Nike's PR challenges and the launch of the new Jordan subsidiary line: "Human-rights activists, here and abroad, have long implored Nike and [Michael] Jordan to show even a modicum of social responsibility. But Jordan just shrugs" (N.Y. POST, 9/14).