SFM Acts To Keep Nike

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Advertising powerhouse Nike is changing the way it buys media, but it's not changing media buying agencies-yet.

SFM Media Corp, New York, on the verge of losing the prized $100 million media buying account, established a new sports marketing division last week in an apparent attempt to shore up its relationship with Nike.

SFM has hired pre-eminent sports media pro Jerry Solomon as exec VP to run the division. Mr. Solomon, until recently president of Anheuser-Busch's Busch Media Group, is considered one of the most astute and powerful negotiators of sports media.

"It's an acknowledgement that they had a problem and that they are trying to do something about it," said an executive close to the Nike account. "The only question is if it's too little, too late."

That may be the case. Executives familiar with the situation say Nike is weighing two options: putting the media account in review or consolidating at creative agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Advertising Age has learned Wieden recently hired former Reebok media buyer Steve Auerbach as a consultant on that pitch. Earlier this year, he resigned as senior VP-national broadcast at Reebok Interntional media agency DeWitt Media, New York.

Nike executives are said to be rankled for having fallen behind Reebok in the area of producing TV programming. Just as DeWitt Media has played a crucial role in developing that area for Reebok, Nike is said to be looking for its media buying agency to do the same.

At SFM, Mr. Solomon is expected to expand on and build new sports marketing partnerships that SFM has developed with its clients and several major sports leagues and franchises.

Messrs. Auerbach and Solomon had no comment. A Nike spokesman denied reports that SFM had been dismissed. Nike Director of Advertising Joseph McCarthy declined to be interviewed.

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