When Reebok’s marquee endorser, Washington Wizards guard John Wall, made the move to Adidas (Reebok’s parent) back in January, many people who follow celebrity endorsements wondered if the footwear powerhouse would exit the basketball space altogether. But it appears as if all that wondering was for naught. According to Slam magazine, Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Nerlens Noel just confirmed that he’ll be signing with Reebok.

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The move would be the first domino to fall as part of a new strategy outlined by Reebok’s Head of Classics and Basketball, Todd Krinsky, at the time of Wall’s move.  “We’re absolutely still in performance basketball, but we’re going to be looking for more storytelling, more retro-inspired new products,” Krinsky said. “It’s really about creating our own space, and trying to create something that’s new to the young consumers that’s basically seeing a lot of brands do the same thing.”

The fact that Noel sports a flat-top that could give the Fresh Prince a run for his money will only help.

When I hear Krinsky talking about storytelling in this context, I think about HBO’s “24/7” series that typically accompanies one of its upcoming pay per view boxing events, where the backstories of two relatively unknown boxers are explored, affinities for one of the camps are formed, and then ordering info is later presented. It’s an exciting combo of compelling content and a specific commercial message that’s directly tied to viewers’ emotional connections to the athletes.

In digital, Reebok has the opportunity to do the same, blending the notions of brand and commerce across multiple touchpoints in ways that fans will love. In a sport with minimal requisite equipment, the shoe takes on a hugely prominent role—it crosses into fashion, and is ultimately defined by the personality of the player who wears them. These stories will spread across Reebok’s web property and into the acquisition channels it controls, and ultimately through retention mediums such as email and social. It’ll all then be amplified by not only bloggers, but by the players themselves as they play in the televised games.

The challenge for Reebok then becomes how can commerce be inserted into conversations across the web (and offline) in a way that’s relevant and doesn’t detract from the story?

Here are three areas where Reebok will need to focus:

Every time I slip these on, I'm transported back to 1996.

Every time I slip these on, I’m transported back to 1996.

  • Centralization: In many organizations, silos in personnel and skill-sets lead to siloed messaging across interaction/retention/acquisition. A centralized common set of tools and human skills can allow for a cohesive conversation with the consumer across all touchpoints.
  • Customer insight: With different players, shoes, stories, and the desire to be both brand- and commerce-focused, customer insight is key into serving the most compelling experiences possible at a given time for a given audience. The appropriate calls to action can be presented only when the appropriate milestone in the customer’s journey has been reached.
  • Elegant experiences: In many cases these already exist, but are deployed in a way that makes them less than accessible for the customer for either of the two reasons above. With Reebok’s focus on stories and nostalgia, there’ll be plenty of rich content and awesome products to showcase; the key will be aligning the right content about the right player with the right consumer.

Few retailers have the opportunity to do what Reebok hopes to: build an emotional connection to a character and product in a way that’s holistic and engaging, but ultimately results in a purchase. If Reebok can execute this bold new strategy, there’ll be lots of fans more than willing to open their wallets and become a part of the story.