Aggressively seek out product placement opportunities. Product placement has also taken on a greater importance. Apparel company Under Armour has been featured on "Any Given Sunday," "The Replacements" and "Playmakers," while Reebok logos were featured on the jerseys of the "The Longest Yard." The company recently inked a deal for apparel rights to high school football teams featured in ESPN's upcoming reality show "Bound for Glory."

Integrate entertainers. Reebok has been the most aggressive in using hip-hop performers to sell sneakers, signing 50 Cent and Jay-Z to unique deals that have resulted in their "G-Unit" and "Sean Carter" lines. Not only do the two have lifestyle shoes, but they also have functional performance signature items. NBA players Jamal Crawford and Kenyon Martin wore the S. Carter shoes during games this past season and 50 Cent recently released a cross-trainer shoe called the GXTII July 1.

"Athletes are credible [endorsers] for performance shoes, but it's not as clear that they are as credible in the fashion world," said Dr. Carl Mela, professor of marketing at Duke's Fuqua School of Business and a board member of the World of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). "If kids are going for fashion, they are not buying sneakers; they are buying an identity."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com. Check out Darren's Sports Business Blog or his latest book, "The First In Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon."



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