Fila names Burnett to $20 mil account

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Fila USA last week named Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, to its $15 million to $20 million account, an assignment that includes the launch of a new athletic shoe later this year.

Fila had asked agencies to come up with ideas for the new shoe, to be endorsed by Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill, although the agencies understood that the winning shop would become agency of record.

After launching the Grant Hill V shoe this fall, Burnett will begin working on a spring '99 brand push that will position Fila around performance and technology, said executives familiar with the review.

A MORALE BOOSTER

The win is a strong morale booster for Burnett, which last year lost Reebok International. It also was a victory over Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, which last year took longtime client United Airlines and the creative for Miller Lite from Burnett. Until the Fila pitch was narrowed recently to Burnett and Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, Fallon, as well as Toth Advertising & Design, Concord, Mass., and W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., were in the review. Arnell Brand Consulting Group, New York, previously handled.

Fila said it liked Burnett for its hunger; its familiarity with the industry; and for Joe McCarthy, the former worldwide ad director for Nike who led Burnett's pitch and will be involved on the account as a consultant. Another part of the pitch was Vigilante, New York, its "guerrilla" agency specializing in marketing to urban consumers.

"They put together a team to pitch the account, led by Joe McCarthy, and that team will continue to serve the account," said Howe Burch, Fila's VP-advertising and sports marketing.

KEY FACTOR IN DECISION

He said Burnett's agency-within-an-agency approach also was a key factor in their decision.

Fila was also impressed with how well the team nailed the Fila culture and deftly blended the brand's Italian heritage into communications about athletes and product performance.

Mr. Burch added that all the agencies suggested Fila drop its "Change the game" tag, and it will.

Fila, No. 3 just two years ago, now trails Nike, Reebok and Adidas and is slumping, lately losing relevancy with trendsetting teens and urban youth to Adidas.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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