Reebok Jumps Through Hoops for Smart Shoe

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Reebok wants its Traxtar running shoe to be smarter than your average children's running shoe. The new "smart shoe" contains a microprocessor built into its tongue that can gauge a child's running and jumping ability.


Reebok, Stoughton, MA, will market the shoe and its Web site, www.traxtar.com, to 6- to 11-year-old boys and girls through a national direct mail campaign in conjunction with shoe retailer FootAction USA, Irving, TX. It also will place ads on child-oriented Web sites and in a number of youth-oriented magazines. The shoe will be available in stores Dec. 4.


The mail campaign gets under way in two weeks in a drop to more than 100,000 people in FootAction's Starclub database, which contains 4.5 million names of children and their parents who have made purchases at FootAction. Starclub members receive a promotional magazine three times a year with special offers and information on new products.


"We are going to be mailing to kids 11 and under and mothers over the age of 25 who have purchased a child's product in that age range," said David Beach, manager of direct marketing at FootAction. "Kids in that age range represent about 3 percent of our database. And with the piece, we are going to be driving them to the new Traxtar Web site and the FootAction Web site."


The futuristic-looking mail piece is colored with metallic inks, and the headline reads, "Traxtar. This planet's first smart shoe." It lists the activities the microprocessor can measure and mentions both the traxtar.com and footaction.com Web sites. The traxtar.com site looks like a space station and includes a game and other interactive elements.


"In the last few months, there has been a lot of talk about how so many kids in the country are overweight and spend too much time in front of the TV instead of being active," said Michael Phelan, director of children's marketing at Reebok. "This shoe gives them immediate and positive reinforcement on their abilities and an incentive to become better and strive for a higher score."


The direct mail campaign is actually the second part of a three-phase promotion. The first, which started in late October, consisted of print ads in magazines such as Girl's Life and Marvel Comics along with hotlinks from Web sites like Sports Illustrated for Kids and the Cartoon Network to Traxtar's early Web site.


"In the first day, we had more than 8,000 kids visit and register at our Web site and give us their e-mail address," Phelan said. "When we launched the official site, we sent them an e-mail back telling them to come visit the new site and take part in the interactive games, online chat capabilities, and make recommendations and comments."


The second phase, which runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 15, will include a 15-second TV spot appearing on the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and other cable television channels. Ads also will run in six magazines, including Disney Adventures and Nickelodeon Magazine, and on five Web sites.


The third phase starts in late December and includes a 30-second commercial to help build demand for the shoe. Reebok will conduct in-store promotions with various retailers, including Kid's Foot Locker, Foot Locker, FootAction, Athlete's Foot, Champs Sports and Finish Line.


A CD-ROM will be included with the shoe that contains a hotlink to the Traxtar site. The CD will have information on nutrition and exercise as well as tips on how to run faster, jump higher and leap farther. The microprocessor has three buttons that measure sprinting, height jumped and distanced jumped. The results are measured on a scale of 1 to 6 on the shoe.


"The kids are then encouraged to post those scores on the Traxtar site and engage in conversation with other users through the Web," Phelan said.


When a child graduates to the next level of scoring, the microprocessor plays "Pomp and Circumstance." Other codes can be entered so it will play other songs and sounds.
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