IS LI'L PENNY THE SAVIOR OF THE FALL BASKETBALL MARKET?
Nike "will once again call upon spokespuppet Li'l Penny
to talk up its basketball products this fall and winter,"
according to Jeff Jensen of AD AGE. In addition to Nike's TV
ad campaign from OR-based Wieden & Kennedy, Crown Publishers
has a Li'l Penny book and Playmates Toys has two Li'l Penny
dolls hitting the market. In one TV spot to debut in
November, L'il Penny is reading his book, "Knee High &
Livin' Large," which will be released that month. Around
the "same time," Playmates will issue two dolls, one with a
"voice supplied by Chris Rock." Crown and Playmates "will
support" with their "own publicity, and local retailer and
radio promotions" (ADVERTISING AGE, 9/15).
THE MARKET: The "basketball segment has sagged lately,"
and "industry experts" report that '97 back-to-school sales
of basketball shoes were down 10%, "with consumers scoffing
at prices that last year were tolerated." As for other
brands, Reebok's top endorser, Allen Iverson, was recently
arrested and "his marketability is being questioned;" No. 3
adidas America has a "hot brand," but "an unproven
spokesperson" in Laker Kobe Bryant; No. 4 Fila USA has Grant
Hill, "an icon" who can "move shoes," but Jensen adds that
Fila "must improve on last year's line" (AD AGE, 9/15).
STAR FLIGHT: Kate Starbird of the ABL Reign said she
has signed a shoe deal with Nike in a deal "just finalized
about a month ago" (ESPN SportsZone, 9/15)....Raptor rookie
Tracy McGrady, and his deal with adidas, is profiled by
Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN. Robert Erb, adidas
marketing exec: "We're not as big (as Nike). We don't have
as much money to throw around. If we're to catch Nike, how
do we do that? With intelligent risk" (TORONTO SUN, 9/16).