GNC, which has been planning a Super Bowl commercial as part of its huge rebranding effort, said it has been rebuffed by the National Football League today, four days after Fox cleared its commercial in writing.
Jeff Hennion, exec VP-chief marketing and e-commerce officer at GNC, said the NFL objected to its commercial because fewer than 3% of its products include two of the 162 substances banned by the league. According to Mr. Hennion, the NFL has approval rights over commercials in the big game.
"We got the word at 1 p.m. today," said Mr. Hennion. "It was the first time they showed any concern."
A Fox spokesman declined to comment on the situation. An NFL representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
That said, Mr. Hennion said the company "had a weird feeling" something was wrong beginning last week. The company had submitted to Fox its logo, which contains the letters GNC in a pill bottle. The network, he said, came back to the company asking for a more muted logo without the bottle.
He said GNC worked all day Saturday with Fox trying to get a logo that would satisfy both parties. Mr. Hennion said he heard nothing back until the call today that the spot was being sidelined.
"So many people invested so much," in the spot, he said. "We are extremely disappointed for all the people involved" in the effort.
The Super Bowl spot was the centerpiece of an effort to position GNC as a retailer that deserves a second look. As part of its push it closed all its corporate-owned stores for one day in late December and reopened with a new look the next. In addition to the now-shelved big game spot, the company still plans print, out-of-home, digital and radio, part of what Mr. Hennion earlier characterized to Ad Age as the biggest marketing campaign in the company's history.
So what now? GNC is going full speed ahead with its TV spot, but without a big game buy. "It won't be on the Super Bowl, but we'll tell [our story] on other platforms," he said.
And on Sunday, the company still plans to hold its Super Bowl party in its Pittsburgh headquarters. "We are going to celebrate" with the GNC team who worked on the campaign, he said. "They deserve it."
Contributing: Jeanine Poggi, David Hall