Sports Authority Begins $80 Mil.+ Playoff

CHICAGO The Sports Authority is contacting agencies nationwide about handling creative duties on its estimated $80-90 million account, sources said.

The sports equipment and clothing retailer has contacted 15-20 agencies of varying size, “from boutiques to mega-shops,” inquiring about credentials and potential conflicts, according to one source.

Independent WestWayne in Tampa, Fla., is Sports Authority’s incumbent.

The category leader, which is currently shifting its headquarters to Englewood, Colo., in February announced its intention to merge with No. 2 competitor Gart Sports Co., and is currently in the process of figuring out what to do in terms of agency relationships, according to one source.

Gart does not currently have a creative agency, though media, handled by Kelly, Scott & Madison in Chicago, is unaffected, sources said.

The acquisition is expected to close in October, and the assignment will be to brand all stores under The Sports Authority name, sources said.

The company’s vice president of marketing David Smith is spearheading the review, sources said. Calls to Smith were not immediately returned.

Sports Authority spent less than $15 million on measured advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Gart Sports, which owns Sportmart and Oshman’s, spent nearly $70 million in 2002, most of it in newspapers.

—with Alicia Griswold and Tania D. Panczyk