SBJ/December 17 - 23, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Reebok to hawk Super shoe

Reebok will exercise its growing NFL apparel rights by selling a limited-edition sneaker on Super Bowl weekend that will bear the logos of the two teams competing in the league's championship game.

The normally long lead time required for sneaker design and manufacturing will make speed of the essence. On Jan. 27, the day the Super Bowl teams are determined, a factory in the southern Chinese city of Zhongshan will begin imprinting logos on the soles of 2,002 pairs of Classic Leather XXXVI shoes.

Reebok plans to ship the shoes by air to the United States and clear customs in time to sell them in New Orleans during Super Bowl weekend Feb. 2-3. Foot Locker will sell the $75 shoes exclusively in its massive store at the NFL Experience in New Orleans and in local Foot Locker and Champs stores. Marketing will be restricted to point-of-sale material.

Ever since the big sneaker brands brought their clout to the licensed-apparel market in the mid-1990s, competitors and retailers complained that they could not meet the sudden demand for the product.

As "hot market" business became the most important aspect of licensing, the complaints grew. By bringing the hot-market concept to shoes, Reebok hopes to demonstrate that it can be as nimble as any licensed athletic apparel brand.

So while the Super Bowl shoes won't make money, Phil Gallant, director of product development for Reebok's Classic line, said, "Obviously, what we learn here will be more important to us than sales."

A likely extension of the program would be to the NBA, where shoes are more inexorably tied to performance and where, as in the case of the NFL, a recent deal will eventually make Reebok the only uniform supplier to the league.

"It's intriguing to think sneakers can be a hot-market product like caps or Ts," said Sal LaRocca, senior vice president of global merchandising and the person in charge of licensing. "So I think this could make even more sense for us."

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