Sports Authority Taps Team Detroit for Media, Creative

WPP Shop to Help Reposition Retailer

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Sports Authority has named WPP's Team Detroit as its new lead agency after a four-month review.

The move, which comes as the Englewood, Colo.-based sporting-goods retailer seeks to reposition its brand, means Team Detroit replaces Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch as the primary media-buying and -planning agency and Post Central, Rochester, N.Y., on creative duties.

Deutsch declined to comment, and Post Central couldn't be immediately reached. Ad Age first reported that Sports Authority was conducting a review in May. At the time, Jeff Schumacher, the company's exec VP-chief marketing officer and chief strategy officer, said it was exploring with new ad partners to help bring the brand to life for customers.

Today, Mr. Schumacher told Ad Age that out of a total of 50 shops that responded to a request-for-proposal -- of which only five, whom he declined to identify, were permitted to present work -- Team Detroit was selected because of its analytics capabilities and ability to be agile. "We're very demanding over here, and Team Detroit was able to adjust to what we call 'fire drills,'" a term Sports Authority uses internally for when it changes marketing promotions rapidly, sometimes within a day, Mr. Schumacher said.

As part of an internal shift in strategy, Sports Authority is planning to focus on three core platforms: e-commerce, big-box stores and S.A. Elite, a new small-store concept under which retail locations range between 12,000 to 15,000 square feet and sell high-end performance apparel, footwear and accessories from brands such as Nike, North Face, Under Armour, Columbia and New Balance.

For Team Detroit, the win means the agency -- which has long been associated with handling all marketing duties for key WPP client Ford -- is continuing to diversify its account roster. Brad Audet, exec VP-managing director at Team Detroit, said the shop's non-Ford business is growing; Sports Authority joins a list that includes the Detroit Symphony, Shell and Bell Helicopter.

Deutsch, meanwhile, isn't totally out of the picture, however. Sports Authority said it could use it and other ad partners in a "minimal capacity."

Sports Authority spent more than $35 million in domestic measured media in 2009, according to Kantar Media. The company operates 462 stores in 45 states and also operates stores in Japan under a partnership with Aeon Co.

Mr. Schumacher declined to say whether Sports Authority plans to increase or decrease ad spending, but he did note that the retailer's media mix is shifting dramatically from weekly print circulars and other direct-mail efforts to a more diversified group of 10 channels that include radio, broadcast and social media. With regards to the last of these, he noted that the marketer is currently adding, on average, 1,000 Facebook fans a day.

Asked why that's important to Sports Authority's marketing strategy, he said: "Facebook fans are very important to us, because its not just about promoting to your customer but interacting with your customer. We are building a stronger and more long-lasting relationship outside of our box."

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