MLB Gives Green Light

8 Shops Swinging Away for ’99 Creative Work
NEW YORK–In the midst of its most successful season in years, Major League Baseball is conducting a training camp of sorts to find one or more creative shops to handle assignments for the 1999 season.
The New York-based league has compiled a closed list of eight small to midsized shops, said MLB executives. West Coast agencies are among the eight, said sources.
Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, handled the creative portion of the estimated $10 million account most recently, but split with the client in February. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, handled the business before Lowe. Media buying is handled in-house.
“We anticipate there will be different agencies for different assignments,” said MLB vice president Jim Masterson. Projects will include image ads and a campaign to celebrate the 25th anniversary of career home run leader Hank Aaron’s final season.
The league’s director of advertising, Jacqueline Parkes, is overseeing the search with Masterson. She declined to name the agencies, but said the league will meet with all of them in the next few weeks and pick winners next month. The list of contenders was built via referrals from team owners, she added.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s battle for the single-season home run record has helped the league continue its resurrection from the strike of 1994. Attendance is up to 65 million, an 11 percent gain on last year, said Masterson, partially due to the addition of two expansion teams this year. Recent games featuring McGwire and Sosa have also drawn strong TV ratings.
MLB spent about $5 million on advertising in 1997. Masterson said the ad budget for next season will be in “the low teens.” –with Hank Ki