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Reebok Pulls Bungee-Jumping TV Ads Amid Consumer Complaints

March 21, 1990

BOSTON (AP) _ Reebok International Ltd. on Tuesday pulled a television ad showing two daredevil ″bungee cord jumpers″ leaping from a bridge with elastic cords tied to their feet. Only one bounces back.

A company spokeswoman said consumers and network officials objected that the 30- and 60-second commercials might give children dangerous ideas. She said Reebok was reviewing changes in an effort to revive the ad.

The ad appeared on CBS, Turner Broadcasting and Fox. NBC refused to run the ad and ABC asked Reebok to substantiate a superiority claim over Nike Inc. that was made in the commercial.

Reebok has been battling for first place with Nike, which had $1.19 billion in U.S. sales last year compared with $1.15 billion for Reebok.

In the commercial, the jumper wearing Reeboks bounces back to the bridge while the other man - wearing a pair of Nike athletic shoes - continues to fall and his bungee cord is shown dangling with empty shoes attached.

″The Pump from Reebok - it fits a little better than your ordinary athletic shoe,″ the narrator says.

″We got a number of calls from viewers who thought the spot was a little too intense and might cause kids to try duplicating the act,″ Fox spokesman Bradley Turell said.

Turell said such a response was ″extremely rare ... but parents were concerned and probably rightly so″ that the commercial, broadcast in prime time, could give impressionable children a taste for adventure.

Reebok marketing vice president Bernadette Mansur said the Stoughton-based athletic company received calls from parents nationwide concerned that their children would try emulating the stunt.

″We made a decision and have directed our agency to pull the ad ... for review,″ she said.

Reebok also heard from network officials, some of whom were troubled by a disclaimer - ″Extremely dangerous. Don’t try this.″ - that appears briefly at the bottom of the picture.

CBS had agreed to broadcast the ad only with the disclaimer.

″Bungee cord jumping is considered a daredevil sport,″ ABC spokeswoman Janice Gretemeyer said in a telephone interview from New York. ″We’re concerned about the safety issue and we have asked (Reebok) to make the disclaimer larger.″

The flap comes within weeks of Reebok’s announcement that it would split with its advertising agency, Chiat-Day-Mojo of New York. Company officials have examined bids from at least four agencies vying for the $40 million account.

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