Berlin Gives Reebok Sarcastic Edge

New Image Work Pours Scorn on the Cynicism of Professional Sport
NEW YORK–Reebok International’s new corporate image campaign from Berlin Cameron & Partners promises “a new movement in sports” and will highlight fans’ detachment from professional sports.
The work is among the first to get a green light from Carl Yankowski, who joined the company in September as chief executive of Reebok Brands Worldwide. Faced with sagging sales and a brand image eclipsed by Nike and Adidas, Yankowski restructured the client’s agency roster, giving corporate work to Berlin Cameron and its Reebok Classic brand to Bartle Bogle Hegarty here.
Outdoor advertising in major markets including New York and Los Angeles uses a fictional newspaper–“The Sports Observer”–to offer a sarcastic take on pro sports. One headline reads, “Stadium Funding Finally Approved, Teachers Accept Pay Cut.” Another screams, “Seventh Grader Enters Draft; ‘I Gotta Take Care of My Family.'” At the bottom of each page is Reebok’s new tagline: “Are you feeling it?” The only tie to the shoe marketer is a small logo.
The posters tease the so-called March launch of an online satirical publication. TV ads, likely supported by the bulk of the client’s $45 million budget, will carry the new line but probably won’t appear until April, said sources. Reebok’s previous work relied heavily on pro athletes and most recently carried the tagline, “Creating possibilities.”
“The campaign is about putting the humanity back into sports,” said Jason Peterson, creative director at Berlin.
The new line will appear in all creative work, including new kids’ ads from Heater Advertising in Boston that break Feb. 22 and BBH’s Classic ads. Shops have been told to produce work that revolves around the Berlin concept, sources said.
Rivals have also backed away from using pro athletes in their ads. Fila’s latest effort, for instance, is themed, “Show the world your soul.”
The stakes are high for Reebok. The brand has fallen “off the radar screen,” said Bob Carr, editor of Inside Sporting Goods, an industry newsletter. “Nobody’s talking about them anymore.” Last week, Reebok said U.S. sales for the fourth quarter sank nearly 19 percent from the same period in 1997. –with Hank Kim and Sarah Jones