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NEW YORK — A rapper, a quarterback and an actress may be Reebok’s version of the old butcher-baker-candlestick maker.

The athletic giant is expanding its appeal to women through its partnership with starlet Scarlett Johansson, but Johansson is certainly not the first big name to be affiliated with Reebok.

Much of the company’s talent is in the rap community. Nelly, Daddy Yankee, Mike Jones and Lupe Fiasco are the most recent additions to the RBK family, joining stars like Jay-Z and 50 Cent. These artists each have a collection of footwear and are appearing in Reebok’s “I Am What I Am” global advertising campaign.

The “I Am What I Am'” campaign celebrates contemporary stars that appeal to today’s youth, from rap icons to actresses and athletes. Actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christina Ricci and Lucy Liu have all appeared in past campaigns.

Johansson will not be featured in the “I Am What I Am,” ads, but Reebok said the “Scarlett [hearts] Rbk” ads, which are part of a new larger global women’s campaign, complement this traditional part of the company’s marketing.

And no athletic company forgets the role of athletes in promoting its products. Donovan McNabb and Allen Iverson both have endorsement deals with Reebok. The company is also expanding its NFL relationship with its “When Did I Know” campaign, which features Peyton Manning as one of its star athletes who describes when he realized he had a talent for football.

Reebok president and chief executive officer Paul Harrington said the company is evaluating its marketing efforts since Adidas bought Reebok earlier this year, and he took over. Musical ties may be emphasized less in the future, while Johansson — who has made a multiyear commitment — takes a bigger role as a face of Reebok.

Reebok parent Adidas also has its own attachments to the rap community, with Missy Elliott and her Respect M.E. line. The German company also has strong designer relationships with Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto.

This story first appeared in the July 25, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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