Despite Conflict Questions, Fila Names Finalists

Fila USA has identified five finalists for its $15-20 million domestic footwear, apparel and in-line skate account.
According to Howe Burch, Fila’s senior vice president of advertising and sports marketing, the finalists are: Cliff Freeman and Partners and Fallon McElligott, both New York; Leo Burnett, Chicago; Toth Design & Advertising, Concord, Mass; and W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Michigan.
Toth last week was named lead shop for Nine West Group’s Easy Spirit brand. Sources said Toth officials met with Easy Spirit Friday to explore the conflict issue. Shop chairman Michael Toth planned to argue that Easy Spirit attracts different customers than Fila athletic shoes and the brands are sold through different retail channels, sources said. Burch said Toth would remain a finalist.
The agencies will meet with Fila executives at company headquarters in Sparks, Md., this week, where they will be given a speculative positioning assignment. A decision is expected by the end of June. The winning agency will then develop ads for GH5, a new shoe endorsed by basketball player Grant Hill, launching in November.
Fila put its account in review in March, when Arnell Group Brand Consulting resigned the business after winning the $30-40 million Tommy Hilfiger business. Toth, incidentally, handled Hilfiger before Arnell.
Burch spent 12 years in account management at Doner’s Baltimore office, which handles less than $1 million in Fila ski wear business.
Burnett offers Fila four years of experience earned on Reebok International, before it resigned the $100 million global account a year ago [Adweek, May 5, 1997]. It also can marshal the services of former Nike global ad director Joe McCarthy, who has been serving as a creative consultant to Burnett since last September. Additionally, sources said, Burnett is pitching with Vigilante, the “urban culture” shop the agency opened in New York last December.
–with Judy Warner and Scott Hum