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Helene Curtis Industries is turning up the marketing heat for Degree antiperspirant/deodorant by linking the 6-year-old brand with the National Football League.

This is Degree's first sponsorship with a pro sports league.

The two-year, multimillion- dollar deal seeks to carve out for Degree a platform based solely on NFL rookie players, not unlike the way Warner-Lambert Co.'s Schick brand uses its National Basketball Association sponsorship to push its disposable razors.


Unlike Warner-Lambert, which uses the NBA to reach young men, Degree will use the NFL to speak to a more diverse demographic-including women.

"We felt it was important to align ourselves with the future of the league," said Gary Kuchta, brand manager at Curtis. The company has been impressed by the NFL's strong TV ratings among men and women, merchandising and marketing to young people.

"We chose to associate our brand with up-and-coming stars who should be with the league for a long time," he said.

The centerpiece of Degree's program in the first year of its sponsorship is an ad campaign from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, that features four promising rookies talking about the pressures of being a first-year pro.

The rookies are Kevin Hardy and Mike Cheevers of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bernell Roques of the Atlanta Falcons and Reggie Brown of the Detroit Lions.


The advertising is scheduled to break Aug. 10 on Fox's broadcast of a San Diego Chargers/San Francisco 49ers preseason game. It will continue to run on Fox's NFL broadcasts and on additional broadcast and cable programming.

The TV spots will be supplemented with print ads that begin breaking in September in USA Today. Those ads will feature facts about the NFL's hottest rookies and promote Degree's "Hottest Super Bowl Sweepstakes."

The national promotion will give away eight trips to the Super Bowl, as well as NFL-licensed merchandise. The sweepstakes will also be touted in free-standing inserts that include coupons.

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