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Baseball Sends FCB to Showers

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Major League Baseball's decision last week to take its $20 million account from FCB will likely lead to a crowded review for the business, agency executives said.

FCB won the high-profile business in September 2000, but the relationship appears to have soured. Last week, FCB issued a statement saying the agency resigned after it disagreed with the client on marketing strategies for next season. MLB plans to move away from advertising to concentrate on product placement and public-relations promotions, the statement said.

One source, nevertheless, said the relationship was severed at MLB's behest.

MLB officials confirmed that the account will go into review. It could not be immediately learned if the client has issued RFPs or contacted shops.

Sources said agencies will be eager to get into the pitch because of the chance to work with a high-visibility brand.

Sources said a likely candidate is TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco, which recently beefed up its sports reel, creating three spots for Fox Sports.

Last April, FCB broke its first national spot for MLB, titled "An them." The ad featured a montage of fans and baseball players. The push also included a number of public-service announcements for MLB-supported charities. The agency created the tagline, "Connect with it."

"We are proud of the level of service we provided Major League Baseball," said Ian Beavis, president of FCB, San Francisco, adding that the agency is "proud of our strategic thinking and ideas." Prior to FCB, the account was handled by Vigilante, a New York-based unit of Leo Burnett in Chicago.

FCB in San Francisco also works with Taco Bell and Dockers.