Shakira at the Rainbow Room.

NEW YORK — When Shakira takes to the stage for her first worldwide concert tour in December, Reebok will serve as co-sponsor.<br><br>At a jam-packed press conference Wednesday at the Rainbow Room here, the sneaker giant revealed its plans to...

NEW YORK — When Shakira takes to the stage for her first worldwide concert tour in December, Reebok will serve as co-sponsor.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

At a jam-packed press conference Wednesday at the Rainbow Room here, the sneaker giant revealed its plans to back her “Tour of the Mongoose,” which lifts off in San Diego and will touch down in 50 cities throughout 30 countries. Dressed in a midriff-baring burgundy Reebok tank, superlow-slung jeans, a denim fedora, four-inch wedge sandals and multiple accessories, including four crucifixes, Shakira pledged her support for the brand despite her antifashion attitude.

“I’m not the type of girl who loves to go shopping. Actually, I hate it,” she said. “I don’t think in terms of fashion. Actually, it’s the last thing I think about when I’m making a video or doing a photo shoot. I’m usually more concerned with makeup.”

So she is, as proven at an interview after the press conference, where she asked for a powder as soon as she sat down and declined to don a Reebok baseball cap instead of her trendy hat. Shakira has agreed to wear Reebok Classic apparel to rehearse and kick around on the tour. She will also work with Reebok to design one of the outfits she’ll wear when she performs.

The brand plans to develop promotional merchandise to give away to concert-goers at the different venues. Known for mixing rock, pop, Latin and Arabic sounds in her songs, Shakira is expected to help Reebok reach the Hispanic market. Sales of her album “Laundry Service” are nearing 10 million.

She said Reebok will donate “many, many thousands” of shoes to children in her homeland of Colombia through a nonprofit foundation there she supports.

“There are many children barefoot on the street who don’t have enough money to buy shoes,” she said. “[To give them some] has been a dream of mine for a long time. It was all meant to be. It’s like destiny.”

She also had loftier subjects on her mind during the press conference, addressing Colombia’s 40-year struggle for peace, coping with success and the paparazzi, and how her family helps keep her grounded. During the half-hour flashbulb-blinding affair, her parents sat quietly holding hands in the audience, while their daughter fielded questions, mostly in Spanish. But at times, even they looked a little starstruck, watching a video of clips of their daughter writhing in python pants on stage, standing with Prince Charles and greeting the Pope.

As for how she came up with the name for her upcoming tour, she said she was “impressed” to learn the “ratlike” animal can defeat a venomous snake with one bite. After the press conference, she elaborated, “There’s got to be a way in this world to defeat hatred. I guess I’m in an existentialist mode right now.”

With her lioness tresses and diminutive frame, the Grammy Award winner might seem like a diversion for such an athletically minded company, and that’s exactly the point. In its bid to attract a wider audience beyond the traditional sports fans, Reebok has recruited the 25-year-old Latin to be the first female musician to enlist in the brand’s “Sounds & Rhythm of Sport” campaign, as reported. In April, Shakira will star in her first Reebok commercial and Reebok will unveil a Shakira-inspired collection this spring.

Prior to Shakira’s cameo, Reebok’s chief marketing officer Micky Pant acknowledged the skepticism that arose from the deal.

“Normally, people associate Reebok with the world of sports,” Pant said. “Some might wonder about our association with such a worldwide [musical] figure.”

But Generations X and Y are more likely to watch sports, surf the Web and listen to music at the same time, and that’s something Reebok is trying to address. Shakira is similar to Reebok-sponsored athletes Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and Allen Iverson in that she is “young, vibrant and beautiful,” and “young people around the world associate with her,” Pant said. That’s a real coup for Reebok, which sells its activewear and footwear in 120 countries.

“Shakira is a wonderful addition to the Reebok family because she has a distinct style and flair and exudes an extraordinary level of confidence and determination to succeed,” Pant said.

Once her tour gets under way, Shakira, like Reebok, aims to solidify her relationship with American consumers. Her concert tours accomplished that in Latin America, she said during the post-press-conference event.

“That’s what made us connect,” she added. “Right now with my Anglo audience, it’s just starting. Once they see me perform, we will finally get to know each other more deeply.”

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