BY PHYLLIS FURMAN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS BUSINESS WRITER
Reebok is turning up the volume with its next generation of rap stars, led by Nelly and Daddy Yankee.
The No. 2 sneaker marketer that hit the top of the charts with rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent, will unveil today its latest celeb-inspired products and ads aimed at capturing the youth market.
In addition to St. Louis rapper Nelly and reggaetton superstar Daddy Yankee, the new Reebok "roster" promoting the company's young, edgier Rbk line includes hip hop artists Mike Jones, Lupe Fiasco and Lil Wayne. They'll be front and center in new print and online ads that are part of Reebok's $50 million global "I Am What I Am" campaign.
"We're bringing together the power of all of our assets," Reebok lifestyle and entertainment marketing chief Que Gaskins told the Daily News.
Products from the new Reebok artists will begin hitting chains like Foot Locker over the next several months. Nelly's Derrty One line of footwear, T-shirts and hats is set to launch April 4. Named after the rapper/actor's record label, Derrty One's casual line of sneakers are priced at around $75.
Launching on May 23 will be a Daddy Yankee line of sneakers, apparel and accessories. His footwear will be priced a bit higher at $80. "Nelly's shoe will have a clean, inner-city, urban" style, Gaskins said. "Daddy Yankee's will have more of a soccer flavor."
Print ads for Nelly will run in music magazines like XXL, Vibe and Rolling Stone. They'll feature a montage of images that are relevant to the rapper's life, from the St. Louis skyline to his signature "grills."
Daddy Yankee's ad shows the star near a Puerto Rican flag. "The industry did not embrace me at all. But my people embraced me, and the industry was forced to deal with me," it says.
Both promos are much tamer than a past 50 Cent ad featuring the Queens rapper, who was shot nine times, near a picture of police fingerprints.
Reebok has also tapped famed filmmaking duo Albert and Allen Hughes, known for urban films like "Menace II Society," to do online documentary-style interviews with Reebok athletes and entertainers, including Nelly and basketball star Allen Iverson, Gaskins said.
Reebok's rap affiliation made young people who would never think of buying Reebok think again.
The No. 2 sneaker seller, Reebok, which was just acquired by Adidas, is locked in a fierce battle with market leader Nike.