COLGATE ENLISTS $20 MIL FOR IRISH SPRING SPORT

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As competitors focus on body washes, Colgate-Palmolive Co. will spend more than $20 million supporting a new antibacterial deodorant version of its Irish Spring bar soap called Irish Spring Sport.

The product, handled by Young & Rubicam, New York, is meant to appeal to both women and men "who are fitness minded," said Susan Verstegen, Colgate marketing director.

Colgate may not have center stage in the $1.4 billion bar soap category to itself for long, however.

Procter & Gamble Co. is studying test-market data on an extension of its Ivory brand.

Ivory MoistureCare was testing in Phoenix until earlier this year. And if a national launch is coming, say executives familiar with P&G, it will be later this year.

Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, is the agency.

STRONG IN SOAP

P&G has been an aggressive player in both the fast-growing body wash segment-where sales jumped 155% in 1995 to $285 million, according to Information Resources Inc.-and the overall declining bar soap market, which saw sales fall 3.3% last year.

In body washes, P&G now owns the No. 1 brand, with Oil of Olay's 2-in-1 Moisturizing Body Wash claiming a 30% share. In bar soaps, it has been restaging brands aggressively, including those under the Olay and Zest brands.

Colgate first extended Irish Spring in 1994, with the launch of Irish Spring Waterfall Clean, meant to appeal to women. That extension was a success, driving up both unit and dollar share for the Irish Spring franchise last year. Irish Spring had nearly a 7% unit share, up nearly 2 points from 1994, and an 8% dollar share, also up 2 points.

Creative for new Irish Spring Sport has not yet been completed, said Ms. Verstegen. Besides print and TV advertising, breaking in September, sampling and sports sponsorships will be emphasized.

"We are planning on sampling the brand at significant levels," she said, noting that in the last year Colgate distributed 90 million samples.

LOOKING AT SPONSORSHIPS

The company is now evaluating sports sponsorships that could be undertaken independently or as co-marketing ventures with another company or with another Colgate brand, such as Mennen.

Ms. Verstegen said Colgate has made no decisions about undertaking another bar or body wash launch, though it earlier announced a new SoftSoap body wash with an annualized ad budget of $12 million.

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