NEW YORK — Accustomed to barraging customers with ads and commercials, a few athletic labels are toning down the feverish pitch to try their hand at viral marketing.

The concept of creating a buzz by word-of-mouth instead of blatant branding is not revolutionary, but it is new territory for some. Last month, Reebok announced its plans to roll out Rbk by Diane Von Furstenberg, a collection the designer developed for tennis star Venus Williams, without any Madison Avenue fanfare. Aside from creating a special label, the company has no plans to plug the new collection in a typical multimillion dollar campaign this summer.

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