SBJ/May 20 - 26, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Spider-Man's shoe deals create a tangled web

A two-story billboard in Times Square shows America's new hero, Spider-Man, endorsing Reebok. There are boards up in Los Angeles and Tokyo, too. Spider-Man looks like Reebok's best entertainment tie-in since it bought into "Survivor" before that show spawned the genre of reality television.

Spidey sports Reeboks in ads, but Peter Parker's a Nike man in movie.

But what's that logo on the sneakers of Spidey's alter ego, Peter Parker? It's the swoosh.

In the early scenes of the just-released movie, before Parker dons his logo-less Spider-Man costume, Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, wears Red Dunk Highs and Cortez Bombers from Reebok's arch rival, Nike. The swoosh is clearly visible, especially during a scene in which an early version of Spider-Man defeats pro wrestler "Sawbones" in a steel-cage match.

So what's going on? Nike's product appears in the film, but Spider-Man endorses Reebok.

Did someone one-up the other in brand guerrilla warfare?

Reebok says it was not a "placement partner" like Dr Pepper, but rather a lower-tier "promotional partner," like Carl's Jr./Hardee's and Kellogg Co.

Reebok also claims Spider-Man does not wear any Nike product. But even so, said Ann Marie Williams, director of entertainment marketing at Reebok, "The beauty is we don't have to be in the movie to be able to leverage it from a marketing perspective.

"We're not branded in the film, but ... Spider-Man's all about cool. It's a brand-image play, and it's already working by giving us more of a 'cool' factor."

Nike's Scott Reames said Nike worked with costume designers to create Spider-Man's boots and other costumes. In return, it got product placement. "We read the script and were pleased to provide our footwear and our design expertise," he said.

After designing shoes and costumes, Nike passed on becoming a promotional partner.

Reebok, however, is more aggressive in its Spider-Man promotion than it was for "Planet of the Apes," "Jerry Maguire" and "Shaft."

The Marvel comics creation, which grossed a record $114.8 million at the box office in its opening weekend, is being used to market to 24 countries. Reebok is using Spidey to sell three models: the Classic Cobra slip-ons, the Classic Streak and the Classic Striker.

"Spidey" has been incorporated into the campaign from agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty for Reebok's Classic line, with ads slated for May and June issues of influential youth/fashion magazines, including Seventeen, Teen People, Vibe, Interview and InStyle.

Consumer promotions incorporating Spider-Man are planned by Reebok for its Asian, European and Latin American markets. In Japan, a limited edition run of Reeboks even carries Spider-Man logos.

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