Renaissance Man

Reebok tunes up its Classics division with Swizz Beatz at the controls.

Athlete endorsements are nothing new: Converse had Larry Bird and Magic Johnson; Nike had tennis rebel John McEnroe, the great Michael Jordan and (for the moment) Tiger Woods; and Reebok has featured Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and Venus Williams as some of its legendary endorsees. Slightly newer, but no longer considered groundbreaking, are the musician endorsement deals. Rappers Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Nelly have all lent their names and faces to Reebok over the years.

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Reebok tunes up its Classics division with Swizz Beatz at the controls.

Athlete endorsements are nothing new: Converse had Larry Bird and Magic Johnson; Nike had tennis rebel John McEnroe, the great Michael Jordan and (for the moment) Tiger Woods; and Reebok has featured Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and Venus Williams as some of its legendary endorsees. Slightly newer, but no longer considered groundbreaking, are the musician endorsement deals. Rappers Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Nelly have all lent their names and faces to Reebok over the years.

So what’s next? Reebok claims it’s writing a new chapter in endorsements by enlisting Jack of all trades, Swizz Beatz, as the brand’s newest tastemaker. But he’s not just smiling for the cameras and cashing a check. Beatz, a platinum producer, fashion designer, artist and also husband to R&B singer Alicia Keys, has signed on as creative director, offering his talents to reposition and re-introduce Reebok’s Classics division.

“We feel this is a breakthrough. The tradition is to sign on and wear the shoes,” says Todd Krinsky, head of Reebok Classics. “This time, though, we’re involved with someone who’s incredibly passionate about our brand and who understands the consumer and pop culture.” Krinsky adds, “Swizz doesn’t sleep much. Talk to anyone at Reebok and they’ll say this is an incredible partnership. Even our president [Jim Gabel] said he hasn’t worked with someone so dedicated in 20 years.”

With Beatz lending his expertise, Reebok has launched the Reethym of Lite campaign, which Krinsky says meets at the intersection of life, sport and style. The campaign includes a music video, “International Party,” which marked Reebok’s return to TV after an eight-year hiatus. “For the Classics business, this is really the time,” Krinsky says. “The sport side saw a resurgence in a time when when the Classics were over distributed, but we spent the last few years really cleaning that up.”

The new Reethym of Lite line, Krinsky adds, is a modern approach to the brand’s ’90s heritage hit style, the Kamikaze. Initially offered only in black and white versions, the second release will give sneakerheads the option of two more combos: gray/lime green and black/red. The Internet is already buzzing about the drop, with bloggers noting the original Kamikaze flew off shelves
in a mere 10 minutes. —Meagan Walker

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