SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/Marketingsponsorship

‘Relevant’ footwear retailers turn up the music

Footwear marketers have been affiliating themselves with musicians for the past year or two; now, some of the nation's biggest retailers are aligning themselves as well.

Sister sporting-good emporiums Foot Locker and Champs are buying in. Reebok will pass through rights from this summer's Jay Z/50 Cent tour, with the retailer providing in-store videos to support footwear and apparel leveraging the artists' names.

Meanwhile, Champs is sponsoring both Ozzfest and Lollapalooza and will use hip-hoppers Nelly and Murphy Lee in a forthcoming back-to-school ad.

So, whatever happened to "Be Like Mike"?

"It's all about being relevant," said Rubin Hanan, senior vice president of retail brand marketing at Foot Locker Inc., "and music is where these kids live as much as sports."

SNEAKER WARS, PART I: Nike may have signed LeBron James to a $90 million endorsement deal, but it appears as if the NBA's newest wunderkind will make his debut in a summer league title-sponsored by Reebok. The No. 2 athletic shoe brand has bought title sponsorship to the Pro Summer League for rookies, second-year players and free agents run by the Boston Celtics at UMass Boston in mid-July.

Teams representing the Cleveland LeBrons (we can safely assume he will be wearing a swoosh and not a vector) along with the host Celtics and NBA finalists San Antonio and New Jersey will compete, along with squads from the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards.

Aside from title sponsorship to the league, which will be televised on NBA TV, Reebok gets rotational and other signs on and around the court. It also receives Celtics sponsorship elements as part of the low- to mid-six-figure buy, including signs on the basketball stanchions and advertising on the FleetCenter JumboTron.

SNEAKER WARS, PART II: With all the hype

Milicic
about Nike signing James and Carmelo Anthony, you haven't heard much about sneaker companies chasing Darko Milicic, a 7-footer whom many are projecting as the second overall pick in the NBA draft, between James and Anthony.

The reason isn't because Milicic, born in the former Yugoslavia, plays in Europe. It's because the 17-year-old pro signed a six-year contract with And 1 last year.

"We're hoping he's our Yao Ming — a guy who can really get us traction in the European market," said And 1 marketing director Errin Cecil-Smith.

Marketing plans for Milicic are incomplete. If Detroit selects Milicic with the second overall pick, he would be on a team with two other And 1 endorsers, Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups.

PEPSI/SOCCER: Pepsi is close to signing on as a sponsor of Manchester United's tour of the United States this summer. Pepsi already had a small deal with the tour as a result of its overall Man U sponsorship. This deal adds rights for Gatorade and Sierra Mist to leverage the July-August U.S. tour.

Marketing plans for the brands' leveraging of the tour are still being developed. The "Champions Tour" sponsorship packages have been on the market for $300,000 to $500,000 and include field boards and ads on Fox Sports Net, Fox SportsWorld and Fox En Español. 

CLOSE SHAVE: Gillette, an MLB corporate sponsor for the past 64 years, will leverage its ties to the national pastime with a late-summer promotion.

The "Get Closest to the Game" promo centers on an instant-win contest across millions of Mach3 Turbo razors. Top prize is an "all-access" trip for four to this year's World Series. Gillette supports with five-second tags on TV ads and an Aug. 10 freestanding insert drop.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Dan Derian to MLB as the organization's first research director, with a charter to compile and sift through data on MLB TV viewership, along with overall fan demographic information. He was with McCann-Erickson, which, perhaps not coincidentally, has MLB as a client. ... Tom Jackovic to USA Track & Field as director of development. He was regional director of development for Washington University in St. Louis.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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