Lamisil AT

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Lamisil at athlete's foot cream hit No. 1 just weeks after its debut last May and woke up the dormant footcare anti-fungal category. Novartis Consumer Health converted the prescription cream to an over-the-counter remedy and watched it pass Schering-Plough Corp.'s Lotrimin AF.

Lamisil AT was positioned as a quick remedy for athlete's foot and "strength, speed and endurance" were emphasized in the brand's marketing. Other products could resolve the itchy problem in four weeks, but in a $20 million launch campaign via Grey Advertising, New York, Lamisil promised to kick it in a week.

That one-week use dovetailed with consumer response: Research showed 85% of consumers used OTC treatments for two weeks or less. So Novartis was in the enviable position of having a product that fit busy lifestyles.

"We just ignored spending levels in the category," says Barry Cohen, who led the launch effort as category director for dermatologicals. "We basically took the entire category spending in 1998, added it up and that's what we spent."

Novartis and Mr. Cohen were also careful to position Lamisil as the athlete's foot remedy for athletes to distinguish it from its Desenex brand, marketed to construction workers, firemen and other blue-collar professionals.

Lamisil posted $39.1 million in sales for the 52 weeks ended March 26, 2000, according to Information Resources Inc.

Novartis signed a deal with the Amateur Athletic Union to sponsor the Sullivan Award, which annually goes to the country's top amateur athlete. The company continued as a sponsor of the New York City Marathon and reached agreement with Bally Total Fitness Corp. to advertise and sell the product at Bally facilities.

But its most visible move was to become an official sponsor of the National Basketball Association and then launch an ad campaign starring Detroit Piston Grant Hill. "Consumers really love him," Mr. Cohen says.

Novartis apparently has a similar appreciation for Mr. Cohen: He was promoted to category VP-OTC marketing after Lamisil's slam dunk.

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