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Shaq, Warner Bros. Team for Shoe, Clothing Line

June 05, 1997|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You've watched its TV shows and seen its movies. Now wear the studio's sneakers.

In another sign of the blurring between sports and entertainment, Warner Bros. on Wednesday said it has agreed to a licensing deal using Laker center (and Warner Bros. actor) Shaquille O'Neal for a line of WB Sport shoes and clothing featuring O'Neal's "Shaq Dunkman" logo.

Wednesday's announcement is part of Hollywood's current obsession with building "brands" to sell products featuring studio names, characters, movies and TV shows. Fox Sports plans to sell merchandise and clothes, and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN sports channel is doing the same.

O'Neal already has a rich contract with shoe giant Reebok International, which is effectively licensing Shaq to Warner Bros. for an undisclosed fee.

The announcement, made on a basketball court at the studio lot in Burbank, featured the 7-foot-1 Laker star, who towered above the executives on hand, most of whom didn't even reach his shoulders.

O'Neal, who stars in the Warner movie "Steel" this summer, spoke briefly, mostly joking. He thanked "Warner and his brother" and said the studio has been hospitable to him during their four-year relationship.

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"They let me use the plane when Arnold and George Clooney aren't using it," O'Neal said.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Dan Romanelli, president of Warner Bros. worldwide consumer products, said the idea for the sneakers was first pitched to Warner by Reebok. He said apparel will be sold in the company's expanding chain of Warner Bros. stores, but not the shoes because the company stores have a policy of not selling footwear.

The shoes, which O'Neal said will sell for about $39, will be available in a few months mainly at lower-priced and mass merchandise stores--among the possibilities are Wal-Mart, Sears and Target--with Reebok's line of O'Neal shoes continuing to sell in more upscale footwear chains. Reebok won't make the shoes--ACI is the footwear licensee, with Russell Athletic as Warner's main apparel partner.

One concern is whether the deal might dilute O'Neal's association with Reebok. However, executives said they don't believe that will happen, noting that the new line of shoes won't sell in stores where Reebok sells its Shaq line.

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