FLEDGLING SOCCER LEAGUE READY TO DRAFT AD AGENCY: WINNING SHOP, TIE-IN SPONSORS WILL LOOK AHEAD TO 2ND SEASON

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Major League Soccer, hoping to position itself as a top U.S. sports league after an inaugural season that surpassed expectations, is scouting for an ad agency.

Five agencies will make presentations on the $2 million account next week, said Randy Bernstein, league senior VP-corporate marketing. He wouldn't identify them.

A decision is expected at the end of this month.

BRAND IMAGE ADS

The agency will support MLS by creating brand image spots and promotions for its telecasts on ABC and ESPN, and its all-star game and playoff matches.

The agency will also develop logos and marques for event properties, and will buy ad time and space in media outside MLS game telecasts.

MLS is also looking to its sponsors to promote the league and its players in national advertising. McDonald's Corp. paired MLS star Tab Ramos with Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls in a spot from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, that broke last week during ABC's broadcast of the Rose Bowl.

Although the league has not yet opened the fast-food category for national sponsorship it allowed McDonald's to feature the player in his team uniform in the ad to put the sport in the spotlight.

AGGRESSIVE SPONSORS

Other MLS sponsors are planning aggressive soccer-theme promotions in 1997. Some, like national sponsor Kraft Foods, which will use its MLS rights to relaunch Tang, haven't finalized ad plans.

But Mr. Bernstein said another major sponsor will soon unveil a spot featuring

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