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Gisele Bundchen Is No Angel as Victoria’s Secret Rival

Victoria’s Secret will face off with one of its most famous Angels, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, when its first store opens in Brazil later this year.

The Brazilian model -- who strutted the runway as a Victoria’s Secret Angel in its annual fashion show until 2007 -- is teaming up with closely held lingerie maker Hope to open the first Gisele Bundchen Intimates store in Sao Paulo in May. That same month, a Victoria’s Secret-branded shop is set to begin selling bras and panties in Brazil.

As the world’s top-paid supermodel and among the most recognizable, Gisele will also help Sao Paulo-based Hope open stores in London, New York, Los Angeles and other major cities next year, said Fabio Figueiredo, the company’s director of expansion. Hope aims to more than double the number of countries where it sells its underwear to 40 this year, he said.

“Gisele is our best brand today,” Figueiredo said in an interview in Sao Paulo on March 6. “We still have lots of room for growth in Brazil, but we have to think strategically where we want to grow and we want to be a global brand.”

Victoria’s Secret, which is owned by Columbus, Ohio-based L Brands Inc, will be operated in Brazil by Switzerland’s Dufry AG, according to an e-mailed statement from the press office of Guarulhos International Airport, where the store will be located. It will open alongside Salvatore Ferragamo, Tory Burch and Emporio Armani in the new terminal of Guarulhos, where tourists leaving the airport are greeted by billboards of the Brazilian supermodel wearing her namesake lingerie along the main road into Sao Paulo.

Lace Camisoles

L Brands didn’t return a telephone and e-mail requests for comment. Dufry declined to comment. Celebrity Agency, which is run by Bundchen’s twin sister, Patricia, who acts as her spokeswoman in Brazil, also wouldn’t comment.

Hope and Bundchen, 33, introduced her intimates line in 2010, offering python-print corsets for 189 reais ($80), hot pink and black lace camisoles for 78 reais and nude garter belts for 50 reais. Hope sells her line along with its own eponymous brand at as many as 4,500 department stores and 117 stand-alone shops.

Hope has a reason to be hopeful: Bundchen’s partnership with Sobral, Brazil-based Grendene SA helped the little-known maker of Ipanema flip flops sell $1.16 billion of sandals last year.

That endeavor -- combined with multi million-dollar sponsorship deals from Procter & Gamble Co.’s Pantene hair-care line to couture designer Chanel -- made Bundchen the top-earning supermodel seven years in a row, according to Forbes. Last year alone, she earned $42 million. No. 2 earner, Miranda Kerr, made $7.2 million.

Overexposed Celebrities

A celebrity like Bundchen, “if you’re small and unknown, is going to put you on the radar in a way that not many other branding and marketing tactics would,”said Leslie Farnsworth, chief executive officer of FrogDog, a Houston-based marketing-strategy consulting company. “But there are huge risks.”

Celebrities can become overexposed with too many endorsements or overshadow the brands they are meant to be highlighting, she said. Bundchen also hawks Oral B Whitestrips and clothing for retailer Colcci.

“You see that a lot with David Beckham -- he’s a huge, huge celebrity and everyone likes to see pictures of him in his underclothes,” Farnsworth said in a telephone interview. “But a lot of people don’t know what it is he’s advertising.”

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