A Mysterious Guest Hits the Courts in Reebok’s Otherworldly Comeback Campaign

Brand redefines itself in 'Sport the Unexpected' spot

This is the last collaboration between Reebok and Venables Bell & Partners. Reebok
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The sneaker you thought you knew has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Reebok is back with a new marketing lead, tagline and campaign released today that leaps in unexpected directions, marking a significant departure from “Be More Human.”

With “Sport the Unexpected,” the classic athleticwear company courts a larger demographic that skews younger and more culture-conscious by combining a disparate slate of elements, from streetball to EDM. The “seemingly uninvited” central character in this spot also takes at least a hint of inspiration from the Korean sci-fi/horror genre that exploded in the late ’90s.

What does it all have to do with a reboot of Reebok’s classic Aztrek line? We’re not quite sure, but the brand packs a lot of fun into 90 seconds.

The unconventional protagonist is a metaphor for the effect Reebok itself wants to have, appearing out of nowhere to both surprise and compel the audience.

“Reebok has been its most successful when we’ve been bold and provocative, when we’ve had a strong perspective on culture and embraced being daring and different,” said global head of marketing and brand management, Melanie Boulden, who joined the company last year after leading Crayola’s global marketing team.

She continued, “If you look at the marketing coming from our industry over the years, it looks similar. With this campaign, we’re breaking convention and offering an alternative point of view on sport and life. We want consumers to know there is an alternative in the category. We want them to be proud to sport the unexpected.”

“Be More Human” ran for three years, but where that effort directly targeted fitness-conscious women, the new work looks to expand the connections consumers—especially young ones—draw between the Reebok name and other cultural touchpoints. At present, the company is best known for its cross-promotions with fitness-oriented names like CrossFit and Spartan Race. But Reebok wants to move into the space occupied by more fashion-forward competitors like Nike, Adidas and Converse.

On that pop culture note, the company also recently released a series of digital videos starring brand ambassadors and hip-hop stars Cardi B and Future.

And for sneakerheads, this marketing push coincides with the brand new all-white Aztrek Double model.

The new campaign, which will include more spots in this vein, marks the last collaboration between Reebok and Venables Bell & Partners, which won the business in a 2015 review but declined to participate in the most recent pitch that saw Deutsch pick up global creative AOR status. That agency’s work will continue along the path begun by this effort.

Boulden said this work will present a side of Reebok that “the consumer hasn’t seen in quite some time.” Regarding her target audience, she continued that “they want to mix it up and call their own shots. They want to do—and wear—what’s unexpected. And, most importantly, they want to be entertained. And this campaign certainly delivers on that.”


Client: Reebok
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Campaign: “Sport the Unexpected”

Global Head of Marketing and Brand Management: Melanie Boulden
Senior Director Brand Marketing: Inga Stenta
Global Brand Advertising Director: Amy Manganiello
Senior Brand Advertising Manager: Laura Whedon
Senior Director Brand Management” James Woolard
Senior Manager Brand Management Chris Strachan
Brand Advertising Coordinator: Shelby Kreienberg

Founder, Chairman: Paul Venables
Executive Creative Director: Will McGinness
Creative Director: Byron Del Rosario
Sr. Art Director: Allie Nordstrom
Sr. Copywriter: Elliot Nordstrom
Director of Integrated Production: Hilary Coate
Producer: Namrata Abhyankar
Head of Brand Management: Michael Chase
Freelance Brand Director: Kristin Obi
Brand Supervisor Hector: Romero
Brand Manager: Alex Kaye
Associate Partner, Head of Strategy: Michael Davidson
Senior Strategist: Dylan Phillips
Director of Business Affairs: Quynh-An Phan
Business Affairs Manager: Sametta Gbilia
Senior Traffic Manager: Jermelia Holling
Assistant Traffic/Business Affairs Manager: Christine Tom
Director of Lumberyard: Raquel Bedard
MCR Operations Manager: Jeff Saunders

Production Company: Prettybird
Director: Tom Noakes
Co-Founder/Executive Producer: Kerstin Emhoff
Head of Production: Rika Osenberg
Producer: Julie Sawyer
Director of Photography: Larkin Seiple
Production Designer: Jason Hougaard

Editorial: Exile
Editor: Shane Reid
Executive Producer: CL Weaver
Head of Production: Jennifer Locke
Senior Producer: Michael Miller
Assistant Editor: Kyle Behrens
Assistant Editor: Jay McConville

VFX/Finishing: Framestore
President, Advertising North America: James Razzall
Director of Production & Operations: Bethan Thomas
Executive Creative Director: Aron Hjartarson
Creative Director: Chris Waitt
Creative Director: Ben West
Senior Flame / Lead Artist: Raul Ortego
Flame Artist: Humberto Reynaga
Integrated Advertising Producer: Georgina Poushkine
VFX Coordinator: Jose Alvarado

Telecine: Color Collective
Executive Producer: Claudia Guevara
Colorist: Alex Bickell
Color Assistant: Alex Jimenez

Music: Barking Owl
Executive Producer/Creative Director: Kelly Bayett
Producer: KC Dossett
Music Supervisor: Jessica Dierauer
Storm the Court Music: “Prayer Hands” by A-Trak & YehMe2

Mix & Sound Design: Barking Owl
Engineer: AJ Murillo
Assistant: Eolyne Arnold
Sound Designer: Morgan Johnson
Creative Director/Partner: Kelly Bayett
Producer: KC Dossett

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.