SPIKE'S AGENCY SCORES WITH PRO TEAMS: BUT FORMER EMPLOYER NIKE HASN'T YET COME CALLING

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Spike/ DDB, the ad agency founded by filmmaker Spike Lee and DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, is carving out a sports niche as it lands more work from Fox Sports and an assignment from the Miami Heat, the National Basketball Association team.

But don't count Nike among Spike/DDB's clients. Mr. Lee credits Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., for getting him into the ad business by recruiting the filmmaker for Nike's series of Michael Jordan/Mars Blackmon spots, but since forming Spike/DDB late in 1996, Mr. Lee said he hasn't heard from Wieden.

NO NIKE ADS YET

It had been reported that the creation of the agency wouldn't hinder Mr. Lee from working on ads for Nike. But asked if he'll do more ads for Nike, he said, with some agitation, "You tell me!"

Yet he stopped short of saying the creation of Spike/DDB has caused a rift in his relationship with Wieden, and he added that it has no bearing on his relationship with Nike, with whom he has an endorsement deal.

Calls to Wieden weren't returned by deadline.

"I have enough ad work right now, with or without Wieden & Kennedy calling me," said Mr. Lee, who spoke with Advertising Age last week after shooting a series of regional promos for Fox Sports Net.

LAKERS PROMOS

Impressed with the creative of Spike/DDB's promos for National Hockey League broadcasts on Fox Sports Net's regional affiliates, which broke last month, Fox Sports Net West tapped the agency to create promos for its Los Angeles Lakers telecasts.

Mr. Lee last week shot enough footage for about 10 15-second spots, which will start airing as soon as they're edited.

Up next: national promos for Fox's broadcasts of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Spike/DDB is also in discussions with Fox Sports Net affiliates in Chicago and New York to shoot promos for Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks telecasts.

The Heat hired the agency directly to create ads in the Miami market.

"We didn't plan it this way, but we're developing a real sports niche," said Mr. Lee, adding that it doesn't bother him. "There's certainly a lot of money in sports."

The agency has changed the way he is regarded among advertisers, said Mr. Lee. "I own 51% of Spike/DDB, so I'm really more involved in the whole process . . . from doing 30-second spots to radio spots to print. Before, I was really just a director for hire."

And he said he enjoys the work, as he is interested in all types of narrative filmmaking, from documentaries to movies. He only works on one movie a year these days, he noted, which frees up time to focus on agency clients.

Peter Ligouri, senior VP-marketing at Fox Sports Net, said Spike/DDB has joined its roster of agencies, which also includes Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, and WongDoody, Seattle.

"We didn't hire a director for hire, we hired an agency-one that has resources that can be trusted; one that is sensitive to scheduling and deadline pressures," said Mr. Ligouri.

FAITHFUL TO KNICKS

Sports clients are a fitting match for Mr. Lee, a notoriously ardent sports fan. Not surprisingly, he is firmly convinced the New York Knicks will win the NBA title this year, as he is most years. He has just completed shooting his first sports-themed film, "He's Got Game," which stars Denzel Washington.The film also addresses how athletic footwear companies target future NBA pros, even as high schoolers, for endorsement deals. Mr. Lee said he hasn't gotten any heat from Nike for making the point.

The film will be distributed by Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Films and is set

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