Shoe rivals take different paths to advertising in Super Bowl

Shoe rivals take different paths to advertising in Super Bowl


The battle for sneaker supremacy has bypassed the Super Bowl in recent years.

This year is no different for Beaverton-based Nike, which for the fifth consecutive year opted out of advertising during what’s traditionally the most-watched TV program of the year. Instead, the world’s biggest sneaker producer placed ads during last week’s playoff games, which it says capture a younger audience.

Rival Reebok has taken a different route. The Boston-area shoemaker has rejoined the party for the first time since 1994.

The strategies exemplify differences between the competitors at a crucial time in the sneaker industry. Nike is trying to hold on to its dominant share of the mature U.S. footwear market while Reebok is fighting to make gains.

For the past few years, the two companies have battled on turf outside the Super Bowl. Reebok outsold Nike in the late 1980s but lost ground — as well as sales and profits — in the 1990s as Nike grew to more than three times as large as Reebok. In turn, Reebok slashed its marketing budget, yanking Super Bowl spots after 1994.

But Reebok has rebounded in the past few years, halting its sales slide with popular shoes endorsed by basketball star Allen Iverson as well as a big push on its classic line of sneakers. It also signed an exclusive licensing and marketing agreement with the National Football League in late 2001.

With sales on the rise, the company boosted its marketing budget and decided to splurge this Sunday. The going rate is reportedly $2.2 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad.

Reebok created a 60-second ad featuring Terry Tate, a fictional overzealous office worker intent on “righting the wrongs of inconsiderate co-workers,” according to a company news release. The ad calls attention to Reebok’s NFL link and promotes its performance products for sports such as running, sales of which have lagged behind the classics and basketball business, said Brian Povinelli, the company’s director of marketing.

“We saw it as an opportunity to get some buzz about Reebok being a real player in the performance business,” Povinelli said.

With a broad audience, the Super Bowl will be a “very efficient way to get our message out,” he said. “We sell shoes to everybody, and you’re definitely reaching people from 12 to 81 with the Super Bowl.”

Nike cited the game’s wide audience as a deterrent.

The game “doesn’t speak to the target youth audience we’re looking to,” said Celeste Alleyne, a Nike spokeswoman. “We’re trying to be much more specific in how we’re marketing to certain groups of people, and you can’t be that way with the Super Bowl.”

So during each of last weekend’s playoff games, the company ran ads twice for its new $100 Shox NZ running shoes. The humorous ad shows a streaker interrupting a soccer match.

Cost wasn’t an issue in deciding against Super Bowl advertising, Alleyne said, declining to reveal how much the company paid for the playoff spots.

Nike hasn’t ruled out advertising in future Super Bowls.

“We look at it on a case-by-base scenario,” she said.

Boaz Herzog: 503-412-7072,