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Reebok sues TriStar over ‘Jerry’ tie-in

Reebok has filed a $10 million lawsuit against TriStar Pictures, claiming the producers of the film “Jerry Maguire” reneged on an agreement to place a specially created TV commercial starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as the fictional football star Rod Tidwell during the film’s end credits.

In its lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the athletic manufacturer also claims it invested more than $1.5 million in developing promotional support for the film and agreed to provide valuable products to be used in “Jerry Maguire” as long as the items were used in a positive manner.

But despite an agreement, the film nonetheless took several pejorative shots at Reebok, including a scene where Gooding, as Tidwell, exclaims “Fuck Reebok!”

The 31-page complaint states execs at Reebok worked closely with the “Maguire” production team, writer/director Cameron Crowe and execs at the studio to develop and implement an extensive, multimillion-dollar promotional tie-in that would be mutually beneficial to the studio and the athletic company.

From April until November 1996, execs at Reebok were repeatedly told by the film’s producers that the commercial was integral to the film’s story of redemption and that it would appear as promised.

‘Forced to file’

“Reebok was forced to file this lawsuit because it wants to be clear that it honors its commitments,” Reebok attorney Pierce O’Donnell told Daily Variety. “A lot of people have been impacted by (TriStar’s) failure to honor the agreement, and Reebok is eager to have a prompt vindication.”

In the film, Tom Cruise, as sports agent Maguire, has a latenight epiphany and issues a mission statement that seeks to revolutionize the agenting business by proclaiming it “is not just about basketball shoes or official licensed merchandise,” but about “personal relationships with clients.”

Reebok said in the complaint that when “it first read the ‘Jerry Maguire’ script in December 1995, it was like a page from Reebok’s own corporate charter. Built on integrity and innovation, Reebok’s stated purpose is to ignite a passion for winning, to do the extraordinary and to capture the consumer’s heart and mind.”

Product misplacement

According to the lawsuit, the company began give-and-take discussions with the filmmakers in January and offered its first written proposal around Jan 3. A product placement agreement in principle was reached around April 8.

“At no point in time before November 27, 1996, did any representative of TriStar, Sony Pictures or anyone ever inform any Reebok representative that the picture would not include the Tidwell Commercial,” the complaint states. “Reebok honored its commitments to TriStar – a Herculean task at times made even more impossible by TriStar’s chronic failure to live up to its end of the bargain.”

Reebok also created a media campaign, including TV and radio ads. According to the complaint, these ads, “which were centered around the Tidwell character, invited listeners to ‘Catch Rod Tidwell in TriStar Pictures’ “Jerry Maguire” at theaters everywhere and get Reebok/NFL Proline Windshirts like the one in the movie at Champs Sports Stores.’ ” The blitz began on Nov. 15.

But on Nov. 27, Reebok was told by the filmmakers that the Tidwell commercial would not be included in “Jerry Maguire,” according to the complaint, “because ‘it no longer fit creatively in the film.’ ”

Without the commercial, the lawsuit asserts, references to Reebok in the film are “highly derogatory and negative … the essence of Tidwell’s views on Reebok are summed up in his quintessentially disparaging and vulgar remark.”

TriStar released a statement that, “consistent with our policy, we will not comment on the details on pending litigation, other than to say that this lawsuit is completely without merit and will be vigorously defended.”

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