SBD/Issue 82/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Venus Is Busting Out All Over ... In Reebok Ads And Outfits

During the first episode of "Survivor II," set to air on Super Bowl Sunday, MA-based Reebok will debut its new TV ad campaign around Venus Williams, via Berlin, Cameron & Partners, N.Y., with the tag: "Defy convention," according to Joseph Pereira of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. In the spots, Reebok is casting Williams "in genteel environs in an effort to lend a touch of class to its admittedly worn-out image." Williams will be shown "posing in vintage cars, sashaying down glittery streets and wearing a wardrobe worthy of a fashion runway." By casting an athlete in a non-athletic role, Reebok "hopes to build the perception that folks who wear its goods are iconoclasts." The company reported that although young consumers "frequently respond well to new Reebok shoes in marketing focus groups, they thumb their noses after discovering who made them." Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, on the company's image: "We have a brand that hasn't been held in the highest regard" (WSJ, 1/18).

A STITCH IN TIME SAVES TWO? USA TODAY's Debbie Becker writes that for her second-round match at the Australian Open, Williams wore the same three-piece low-cut dress she wore in the first round, but with "strategically-placed stitches that guaranteed a less-controversial amount of cleavage was showing." Williams said that "she was happy with her outfit and she didn't pay any attention to the fuss" over it. Williams: "I've been advised not to read the media, especially when they are writing about me. I love the outfit. I felt relaxed, comfortable and just beautiful" (USA TODAY, 1/18). ESPN2's Pam Shriver said when Williams took the court for her opening-round match, "more people were concentrating on her outfit than her game." ESPN2's Mary Joe Fernandez, on the controversial dress: "It looks a little bit more under control today, though." Shriver responded, "It's only the second game" (ESPN2, 1/17).

NOW WITH SERVICE TO SPRINGFIELD: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's "Scorecard" reports Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and the Williams sisters will guest-star on the February 11 episode of Fox' "The Simpsons." On the show, "Homer and the gang enter a tennis tournament and eventually meet up with the four stars." "The Simpsons" co-Exec Producer Ian Maxtone-Graham said, "The Williams sisters are my favorite athletes. This was my way to meet them." Maxtone-Graham also directed Venus and Serena Williams when they recorded their dialogue, "and he observed firsthand their competitive nature." Maxtone-Graham: "Anytime celebrities come on the show, we make them sign a stack of scripts so we can sell them when we're all out of work. They were signing a huge stack, and at some point it became a race. These are the best tennis players in the world, and all they were interested in was beating each other at signing scripts" (SI, 1/22 issue).

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