Reebok described Skinner as a "long-time wearer" of its Classics range, which he namechecked in a track on The Streets' 2002 debut album 'Original Pirate Material'. The album redefined the UK's music scene, spawning hits such as 'Weak become Heros' and helped other homegrown artists come out of the shadow of American urban acts.
The deal means that Skinner will promote the brand and the Classics range during the next 12 months. He announced the tie-up on stage at the V Festival last weekend.
The first creative features a picture of Skinner and the text "I never quite fitted into any scene. So I made my own. It's better to be yourself than a poor version of someone else".
The ad will be used heavily in outdoor formats including building wraps and banners in the rapper's home town of Birmingham and adopted home of London. It will also go into magazines such as FHM, Touch, Vice and Dazed & Confused.
Created by Leagas Delaney, the Skinner campaign is a local variant of Reebok's global 'I Am What I Am' campaign, managed by New York agency Mcgarrybowen. It has featured sports stars such as Kelly Holmes, actors such as Christina Ricci and Lucy Liu, and US rappers Nelly, Jay-Z and 50 Cent.
Skinner is the first UK musician in the campaign. The 50 Cent posters and TV ads landed Reebok in controversy when anti-gun campaigners slammed them for glorifying the rapper's violent past.
Skinner does not do the gangster posturing and although he raps about crime and drug dealing his lyrics are as much about lads, larks and birds. When he namechecked Reebok on 'Original Pirate Material' it was with the cheery line "Let's put on our Classics and have a little dance shall we?" in 'Let's push things forward'.
Plentiful swearing and his avoidance of media attention have prevented him from becoming mainstream and parent-friendly, while decent people were offended by the video for second-album track 'Blinded by the Light' which contained frank imagery of drug taking and sex acts.
Andy Towne, European marketing vice-president at Reebok, said: "Mike is a perfect fit for the brand because he has been a long time wearer of the Classics range and a fan of the Reebok brand. This passion along with his unique musical style makes him an ideal ambassador for us."
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