Reebok Debuts ‘Cratemaster’ Film at Hilltop Playground in Brooklyn

Reebok premiered “Cratemaster,” a film directed by Kerby Jean-Raymond, at Hilltop Playground in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Tuesday.

The sportswear brand supported the film premiere with a public event featuring carnival-style games, music and a tournament intended to bring context to the film that Reebok artistic marketing director and “Cratemaster” creative director Jide Osifeso said is inspired by one of Jean-Raymond’s life experiences.

The film follows a young, undersized baller who saves his money to enter an unofficial neighborhood 2-on-2 basketball tournament where the winner receives a pair of Reebok Iverson Answer sneakers. The half-court basketball-style play is held on a sidewalk with a crate tied to a gate to serve as the basketball hoop. As the tournament progresses, the neighborhood takes to the block to watch the kids play for the top prize and bragging rights.

“This is definitely a story rooted in Kerby’s past,” Osifeso said about the film. “This was very personal, something that happened to him as a kid finding access to things that were missing. I would say basketball has a low barrier of entry. You don’t need a mask or 10 people, you can play ball on crates.”

“Cratemaster” is a longer-form narrative piece that expresses the Reebok brand and “doesn’t feel like marketing,” said Inga Stenta, formerly global head of brand marketing at Reebok and currently head of Reebok U.S. marketing.

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“What we’ve seen in the U.S. is just how important basketball is and how unique Reebok is in this space,” Stenta said. “What this film does and what we as a brand can do is shine a light other brands can’t in how we try to show all sides to the world.”

On the surface, “Cratemaster” is a coming-of-age basketball film about believing in and betting on yourself and what you’re capable of, but Osifeso believes the film has a deeper message on accessibility.

“If they’re missing a basketball court, what else are they missing?” Osifeso asked. “What are their schools like? It’s a symptom of a greater problem.”

Prior to joining Reebok, Osifeso launched a collection with Canadian brand Reigning Champ called Weeping Eye that will debut its next collection in September. The partnership was unveiled in 2019 and offered at brands Reigning Champ and Osifeso’s label Hymne, as well as Nordstrom, Saks and Matchesfashion.com, among other retailers.

Osifeso also worked with sportswear companies including Nike, Jordan and Adidas and described Reebok as “this untouched gem.”

“Cratemaster” is also one of the first films to come from Reebok since its new look led by Jean-Raymond. The Pyer Moss founder and designer who recently presented his first couture collection as the first Black American designer to be an invited guest of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, joined Reebok in late 2017 to produce a sportswear line with the company known as Reebok by Pyer Moss. After three collections with the company, he was named vice president, creative direction in September 2020.

Reebok kicked off the new direction in June with “Reconnect,” a film by Osifeso and Jonas Lindstroem that forgoes the traditional athlete marketing campaign for a deeper narrative about the individual, which Osifeso says is more interesting than being “the world-class athlete.”

“We can’t do the world-class athlete being the best and being the Olympian. To me that’s not interesting,” he said. “What I find more interesting to talk about is the individual that turns to sport to hang out with friends and decompress. Fathers that use the context of sport to talk about wealth and their body. We want to be very much mindful of inclusivity, but also access to ideas. We would love for you to buy our stuff, but it’s important to connect with a brand like ours.”

Reebok’s basketball business has been fronted by NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson since his signing in 1996 and then for a lifetime deal in 2001. One of their current active NBA athletes, Montrezl Harrell, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers after stints on the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets.

Outside of basketball, Reebok athletes and endorsers include Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt and his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, running back Devonta Freeman, WNBA Chicago Sky player Lexie Brown, who is the daughter of NBA retiree Dee Brown who signed a lifetime contract with Reebok and helped promote the company’s Pump sneakers, and MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

A few of the lifestyle and entertainment partners include designer Victoria Beckham, rappers Cardi B and Future and model Gigi Hadid.

Stenta said of “Cratemaster” and the importance of basketball in the market: “Basketball is such an important part of the business in the U.S., I believe we will see this storytelling. It’s about the new voice that Kerby is bringing to the brand and connecting to the consumer in a new way. Building a real connection with the brand and what we stand for.”

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