Admirable Feat For Reebok

Posted: July 22, 1988

One day soon, a prisoner will be freed from the clutches of a murderous totalitarian government, and a piece of his freedom will be owed to anyone who has purchased Reebok athletic shoes.

Reebok is footing the bill for Amnesty International's worldwide rock music tour to raise money for the protection of human rights throughout the world. The tour includes a stop Sept. 19 at JFK Stadium.

These days, it seems, you can't go to a yard sale without encountering a corporate sponsor. Big companies sponsor everything from golf tournaments to jazz festivals to cycling championships.

Now, they're underwriting freedom from oppression.

The benefits to Amnesty International are simple: The organization receives enough up-front cash to stage 20 concert dates around the globe - an undertaking that would otherwise be beyond the financial means of the organization. That will enable Amnesty International to raise millions for its cause.

But what does Reebok get out of the deal?

For one thing, most of its $10 million. The shoe company will be repaid through ticket revenue when the tour is over, said James O'Dee, regional director of Amnesty International.

That's more than OK by Amnesty International, O'Dee said. The real value of Reebok's $10 million, he said, is that it provides Amnesty International with enough money to get the tour off the ground.

The Reebok people say they're underwriting the Amnesty International concert tour for altruistic reasons.

"The objectives of Amnesty International are very much in line with the philosophy of our company," said James Van Dine, Reebok's Northeast regional sales manager. "We both believe strongly in freedom of expression."

"And," he added, "we hope to give something back to the young customers who have contributed so much to our success."

Indeed, young people with a different pair of Reeboks to match every outfit have helped the company grow so that its sales now total $640 million a year.

Van Dine agreed that Reebok's high-profile sponsorship before the 75,000 rock fans who will turn out at JFK in September to see performers like Bruce Springsteen and Sting is an excellent form of marketing.

But he insisted that Reebok is not backing the concert tour for reasons of product exposure and profit.

"We certainly don't see any downside to it from a marketing standpoint, but, honestly, we were attracted to the project because of the similar goals of the two organizations, and it really doesn't go much further beyond that," Van Dine said.

Corporations frequently play down the advertising value of such sponsorships, but that doesn't mean the benefits are not significant.

CoreStates, for instance, found that its name recognition among Philadelphians increased fivefold after it started sponsoring a professional bike race.

A company that lends its name to a major sporting event is getting the best marketing bargain around, said Kevin Scanlon, whose firm, Executive Diversions, is organizing next month's McNeil Classic Pro-Am golf tournament at White Manor Country Club. The tourney is being sponsored in part by McNeil Consumer Products and McNeil Laboratories.

"In the case of something like this, a golf tournament, the name of the company gets into magazines with national circulations, and that kind of exposure is normally very expensive," Scanlon said.

A good example of the power of corporate sponsorship, he said, is the old Industrial Valley Bank Golf Classic last held in the area back in the 1970s.

"It's been nine years since that tournament was held here. Long after people have forgotten where it was held or who won, they still remember the name - the IVB Classic," Scanlon said.

In fact, the name recognition of the tournament lasted longer than the company itself. In 1985, IVB was swallowed up by Fidelity Bank.

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