Bristol-Meyers Squibb pairs Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and tennis champ Jimmy Connors for this Nuprin commercial in Super Bowl XXVI, one of four where Kelly and the Bills actually took the field. Unfortunately for Kelly, Washington blew out Buffalo 37 to 24, sacking the opposing quarterback and intercepting him four times each.
Bristol-Meyers introduced Nuprin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, in 1984 with a $25 million marketing campaign led by Grey Advertising. Nuprin didn't meet sales expectations, however, and J. Walter Thompson took over the account in 1990. Its first ad with Connors in 1991 was a "smash," Ad Age ad critic Bob Garfield wrote at the time.
The memorable catchphrase "Nupe It," with its echoes of "nuke it," stands out even years later.
"That slogan was not a matter of luck," JWT Senior VP-Group Creative Director Hal Friedman told the Washington Post in 1991:
"When we first talked about it, though, some people thought it might be too fearsome, too close to nuking someone. Obviously one of our big concerns was how nuclear did it sound?"
Research indicated that when athletes were added to the mix, "it absolutely fit," Friedman said. "Athletes could bandy it around. It was like jock talk. People felt like it was okay, that it wasn't the least bit offensive."
The brand would go on to use an even more memorable tagline, "Little. Yellow. Different."
Painkiller marketers continued to stop by the Super Bowl over the years, though perhaps not as frequently as the full-contact game might suggest. Aleve ran a spot in 2006 ("Leonard Nimoy"), Advil showed up in 1992 and 2016 ("Distant Memory"), and Tylenol's big-game ad buys included 1995 (Family Relief"), 1996 ("Eddie George") and 1997 ("Practice").
AGENCY: J. Walter Thompson
QUARTER AIRED: Q3