SBD/27/Sponsorships Advertising Marketing

MUST-READ ON SHOE COMPANIES DROPPING ATHLETES AS ENDORSERS

          The decline in footwear sales among sports companies
     and its impact on those companies' endorsement rosters was
     examined in "The Endorsement Game," a four-story feature
     over two-issues by Jeff Manning of the Portland OREGONIAN. 
     In a front-page, above-the-fold piece on Monday, entitled
     "Slump Speeds Slowdown of Spending On Athletes," Manning
     reported that at Nike's quarterly meeting in January,
     sources said that company Chair Phil Knight said he would
     rather cut athletes than lay off a single Nike employee. 
     But, Manning added, while companies debate whether they can
     afford the luxury of paying athletes to hawk their products,
     Nike "is the most reluctant to cut back."  Nike has been
     "particularly tough on track and field athletes, in part
     because there are no Olympics or other" major events this
     year, and is also "cutting many of its ties to bicycling,
     particularly road racing."  Other shoe companies "are
     pulling out of some sports nearly entirely," including Fila
     which is getting out of the football shoe business.  Fila
     VP/Advertising Howe Burch: "Kids just aren't as inspired by
     athletes because a) there are too many of them, and b)
     because of their behavior."  Reebok VP/Sports Marketing John
     Frascotti: "[W]e've hit a salary cap.  We sort of lost track
     of the reason for doing these deals" (OREGONIAN, 5/25).
          NIKE CHANGES? Nike critics argue that the company needs
     to take a "more selective approach to sports marketing," a
     department that some insiders "long had argued needed
     overhauling."  Manning reported that a "vocal faction within
     Nike is dissatisfied with Nike's mass-endorsement approach,
     which they said is 'see 'em, sign 'em.'"  A former Nike
     insider: "Phil [Knight] agrees this needs to be more
     strategic.  But Phil's the one who throws a fit if they let
     an athlete go" (Jeff Manning, Portland OREGONIAN, 5/25).
          THE DEBATE GOES ON: Among other aspects of Manning's
     report: Sunday's front-page feature ran under the header, "A
     Sports Marketing Juggernaut At The Crossroads: Nike and its
     competitors built their empires in an unprecedented
     partnership with athletes, but now the wildly successful
     strategy is in doubt."  In a sidebar on Sunday under the
     header, "Forget Research: Endorsements Just A Lot Of Fancy
     Footwork," Manning wrote that Nike spent $300M last year
     "largely on gut instinct."  While Nike and other companies
     know what they want from an endorser, they're finding it
     "more difficult to determine whether they're getting their
     money's worth" (OREGONIAN, 5/24).  On Monday, Manning wrote
     a sidebar under the header, "Scandals Don't Keep A Shoe Firm
     From Celebrating Its Superstars" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/25).

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Related Topics:

Fila USA, Nike, Reebok

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