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Volume 24 No. 155
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          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).