NEW YORK — Nutritional supplement seller GNC intended to use a 30-second Super Bowl ad to revamp its image. But the NFL had other ideas.
GNC said Tuesday it was notified that it will not be allowed to air the ad it created — or any ad — during the game Sunday because it violates an NFL policy against having supplements advertised during its games.
A number of companies in the past have had to switch out or modify their Super Bowl ads because they were rejected due to their content.
One company, 84 Lumber, said it was asked to alter its spot that showed a border wall, because it was deemed “too political.” SodaStream changed its ads twice in the past two years because they were deemed to be referencing Coke and Pepsi too directly. GoDaddy has had a spot rejected for being too racy.
But this is the first time in recent memory that an advertiser has been banned completely.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy cited policy that’s part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association that prohibits the use of performance-enhancing substances.
“We do not want a network partner airing advertising in this category on NFL games or NFL programming,” McCarthy said.
The news came as a surprise to GNC, since its ad had been given the green light by Fox, said the company’s chief marketing officer, Jeff Hennion. The ad concept was approved Jan. 9 by Fox and a rough cut of the spot was approved last week, he said. But they were notified on Monday that the ad would not air.
“We don’t know why they waited until six days before the game to tell us,” Hennion said.
Fox spokesman Jonathan Bing declined to comment.
Pittsburgh-based GNC Holdings Inc. has been attempting a turnaround, but it has been slow going. In July, its CEO stepped down and its shares plunged. It has also had to alter some marketing tactics to comply with federal authorities.
The company’s pricy Super Bowl ad — a 30-second spot is estimated to cost around $5 million this year — was an attempt to do some reputational rehab.
“GNC launched an entirely new business model at the end of December,” he said. “The goal of the Super Bowl is to give us that one moment when we could reach as many people as possible and let them know about ‘new’ GNC.”
GNC is talking to Fox to see what the next steps might be, or if it can get a refund, Hennion said.
Still, Hennion said the company is sticking with the campaign and will find other outlets for the spot, including online . The ad shows people exercising and finding other ways to change their lives, with the tagline “Courage to Change.”
The Super Bowl at Houston’s NRG Stadium pits the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons.