If you had just released a revolutionary new shoe product and were looking for a celebrity to endorse it, you'd probably choose a dominant sports figure who epitomizes the power and majesty of raw athletic ability. That's what Nike did, and we all know how that turned out
In 1989, Reebok unveiled The Reebok Pump
, but they used a somewhat different marketing approach. Instead of signing one of world's premier athletic talents (ala Michael Jordan), Reebok chose a broken-down, retired basketball player that nobody really liked anymore. They chose Bill Walton.
Walton was an especially ironic selection, since by the time this commerical aired his feet were composed entirely of chicken wire and tissue paper. Big Bill even drew attention to that fact by saying, "Pump, where were you when I needed
you?!" Walton followed up that mournful rebuke with "If I could play today, I'd pump up for support, protection, and a custom fit." It's as if Bill wants us to believe that some air and a little extra rubber would have prevented his brittle feet from breaking into thousands of tiny pieces.
Sadly, this Utopian world in which foot injuries were completely eradicated by the Reebok Pump never came to be. Maybe that's because the Pump was so damn expensive: $180 on its initial release. And that was in 1989 dollars
. In today's marketplace, that would be, like, a $10,000 shoe. Believe me, nobody's going to buy a $10,000 shoe endorsed by an injury-prone has-been. After all, how many pairs of Shaq's Dunkman game shoes
do you own? Yeah, that's what I thought.
So if you're ever wondering why Reebok failed to overtake Nike in the Great Shoe Wars of the 1990s, it's because they tried to sell what was, at the time, the most expensive athletic shoe ever based on the recommendation of a man who could barely walk. It also didn't help that their tagline -- Pump Up and Air Out -- sounded like the flatulent result of a late-night Taco Bell run.
Labels: Bill Walton, celebrity endorsements, Nike, Reeboke, Shaq, shoe commercials