Reebok’s Marketing VP Talks New Campaigns, Social Media Strategy

In Reebok’s new global ad campaigns for two key brands, lead creative agency DDB takes decidedly different approaches. The effort for ZigTech footwear and apparel features world-class athletes like the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning and Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, while ads for EasyTone—a line of sneakers and apparel geared toward women—center on actual consumers. Both campaigns mix traditional TV, print and outdoor ads with digital and social media marketing, and will run through the end of the year. In an interview with Adweek, Rich Prenderville, vp of marketing at Reebok, which spends $100 million on media annually, discusses how comments on Facebook inspired the EasyTone strategy and how Reebok has changed the way it picks athletes for its ads.

Adweek: What are you looking for as you evaluate the effectiveness of both campaigns?
Prenderville: We want to get feedback from consumers that say they understand the messaging. We, as a brand, feel that our strategic territory is to bring fun to staying in shape. We see the other brands in the space and they’re a little more the blood, sweat and tears of that, and we think fun is a motivating factor for consumers.

How is the new ZigTech advertising different than last year’s?
In both of the [2011] campaigns, we are really driving much more robust marketing platforms. If you go back to 2008 with our brand, we were not doing a lot of communication or marketing. In 2009 and 2010, we had to announce ourselves back and we did that through advertising. Now we’re back on track to deliver marketing platforms. So, there’s much more digital integration. There’s much more social media integration.

How are you using social media?
EasyTone actually started from social media—at least this version of it. We had launched the toning category and really put that out there. I think we did some provocative work in 2010. Consumers came back and were talking about it in blogs and on social media, like Facebook. We really picked up on that and said, “Well, you know what? This is a story that we’ve given to consumers. Let’s celebrate the ‘every person’ in the spots.” So, the women that we’ve used . . . come from everyday life. They have day jobs. 

What are the pros and cons of taking a global approach as opposed to the more regional, market-by-market tack you used in the past? How do you view that transition?
That was something that was [a specific goal] when we hired DDB (in 2009). . . . I wanted to make sure that we had an agency on the business that really looked at it as a global business. Because if we look at our other markets, they want to associate with global brands. They don’t want to associate with local brands. They want to be part of a bigger story. So, I wanted to make sure that our work was globally relevant but also very, very compelling for local consumers.


Are you concerned about losing connections with local markets that interpret the brands differently?
No, because the brand means what the brand means. Our DNA should have the same representation whether we’re speaking to a consumer in Canada or Indonesia. What we do . . . is make sure we develop locally specific work.

By what criteria does Reebok pick the athletes in its ads?
We pick athletes that represent our brand. Any marketer is going to tell you that. But if you look at Reebok 10 years ago and you have the NBA draft, we were just going after the No. 1 draft pick, no matter who it was. This time around we were very, very specific with it. We had a relationship with [the Washington Wizards’] John Wall. We knew that John Wall had a similar DNA to our brand’s—a guy that’s playful, plays very hard, takes his game seriously, but doesn’t take himself as seriously.

When you use athletes you run the risk of the dreaded scandal that in turn sullies your brand. How do you weigh the risk-reward of this approach? Is that always a consideration?
Not really.

Why not?
First of all the athletes that we have on board are pretty straightforward. If you look at an athlete like Peyton Manning or [Pittsburgh Penquins center] Sidney Crosby . . . those guys are really focused on their games.

Well, at one point, people thought Tiger Wood was pretty straightforward too.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.  

It’s always a risk, but do you see it as a minimal risk with these guys?
Yeah, I think it’s a minimal risk and I don’t think it’s a risk that we need to mitigate. We’re in a great place here.

Did you opt for regular people in the EasyTone ads because the target is different?
It’s in keeping with how the target is different, but it’s also in keeping with the product [unique selling proposition]. If you look at the Zig, it’s more energy. It’s more energy for your game. It’s more energy for your training and it’s really a performance shoe [designed for] getting ready for sport or fitness. . . . EasyTone is an out-of-the-gym experience. So, you would use EasyTone in your day-to-day trips around the city and things like that to get more toning all day long. So, it’s just a different approach based on the product USP.