L'Oreal launches ad effort for Drakkar Noir fragrance

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Drakkar Noir launches its first advertising since the mid-1990s with an unlikely sports tie-in-stock-car racing.

L'Oreal USA signed Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to a sponsorship agreement that includes appearances in Drakkar Noir advertising. The 27-year-old driver will be the main attraction in a $10 million-plus effort starting Feb. 17 with the Daytona 500.

Print ads break in March magazines, which revives Drakkar Noir's longtime tagline: "Feel the Power." L'Oreal lost that tagline "to the NFL for a few years" said Jack Wiswall, president, L'Oreal's Designer Fragrances unit.

L'Oreal did not advertise Drakkar Noir for at least the last four years, concentrating instead on other designer fragrances, but found the fragrance still sold well in department stores, Mr. Wiswall said. Drakkar Noir was a top-five seller among men's fragrances since its launch in 1982, and dropped only to 15th, even after years without marketing support, he noted. It was ranked eight among top-10 men's prestige fragrances as recently as 1999 by retail research firm NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.

`our chanel No. 5'

"This is our Chanel No. 5," Mr. Wiswall said. "We really felt we could reinvent this brand."

The ads featuring Mr. Earnhardt, created in-house, will break in Time Inc.'s Feb. 11 Sports Illustrated Daytona preview issue. Ads will appear in men's sports and lifestyle magazines. Mr. Earnhardt will appear in TV ads in the fall. Publicis Groupe's Optimedia, New York, handles media.

The choice of Mr. Earnhardt was easy, Mr. Wiswall said. He's a well-known driver who's winning races, he's attractive and he has the heritage of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., killed at last year's Daytona 500. TV ratings for Nascar's 2001 Winston Cup Series were up 29%, according to Nielsen Media Research. Nascar was able to attract four new sponsors for this season, although it did lose several sponsors in what a spokesman said was "normal year-to-year turnover."

A number of Drakkar Noir bottles will feature Mr. Earnhardt's picture and a sweepstakes will give away 16 General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Monte Carlos.

contributing: rich thomaselli

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