P&G's NFL Toilet-Paper Deal Leaves a Faint Whiff of Something

Months-Old News May Not Even Lead to Increase in Sports-Marketing Dollars

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- The NFL now has an official toilet paper, deodorant and odor neutralizer, thanks to a deal with 13 Procter & Gamble Co. brands, yet something still smells a bit funny.

The deal, originally reported by Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal in January, wasn't officially announced until today, the same day P&G announced it had missed its organic sales forecast for its fiscal fourth quarter.

P&G wouldn't comment on the report in January or subsequently, but timing of the announcement to coincide with the earnings release today "was purely coincidence," said P&G spokeswoman Anne Westbrooke, not an attempt to divert attention from the results.

It's not clear the deal, valued at $10 million to $15 million annually in press reports, will actually result in an increase in sports marketing spending by P&G brands. Ms. Westbrooke declined to comment on that. Gillette, Old Spice and Prilosec OTC alone most likely spent in that ballpark on NFL-related marketing in years past, with Gillette spending an estimated $3 million annually on naming rights for Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. It spends more than $5 million annually just on talent fees for its "Champions" program, featuring Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Thierry Henry and Derek Jeter, according to people close to the company, and millions more on its Young Guns Nascar sponsorship.

So the NFL deal with 13 brands looks like a pretty good bargain at a particularly good time, as traditional NFL sponsors in the automotive, financial-services and beer industries have been pulling back spending. Gillette did, however, re-up its deal with Major League Baseball in April, so money for the NFL isn't coming out of that coffer.

The question, though, is how much spending on sports has helped so far. Sales of Prilosec OTC have been plummeting at a double-digit pace since private-label competition emerged last year. And P&G Chairman A.G. Lafley singled out the blades-and-razor business -- beneficiary of the lion's share of P&G sports-marketing spending -- as one of the more disappointing performers last quarter, though he said the female business, which doesn't get much sports support, was the primary problem.

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