What does it take for the NFL to yank an ad worth millions of dollars? Just ask GNC as it was announced a commercial from the company will not air during Super Bowl LI due to the league’s stance on performance enhancing drugs.
Two of the substances on the NFL’s list of more than 100 banned substances are sold at the nutrition and dietary supplement giant’s stores. Those supplements are DHEA, an anabolic agent, and the stimulant synephrine.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told USA TODAY Sports this week that, “We have told FOX it may not air in Super Bowl or any NFL programming.”
The NFL’s rejection of the ad caught GNC, who paid $5 million for the 30 second ad, by surprise.
“We sent the spot to Fox on Thursday one last time, and they cleared it,” GNC executive vice president Jeff Hennion told USA TODAY. “Then Friday evening they called and said the NFL had an issue with the logo. We spent the weekend working through alternatives. And then at 1 o’clock [Monday] we were notified by Fox that the NFL had rejected us, our commercial and rejected us as an advertiser in the Super Bowl. And that was the first we had heard there was any concern with GNC’s participation.”
The NFL has a history of rejecting Super Bowl commercials that can appear to be polarizing to their brand.
Earlier this month, 84 Lumber, a building supplies company, planned to air an ad during Super Bowl LI that features a wall blocking people looking for work in America until Fox Sports nixed the ad.
Back in 2010, CBS rejected an ad for a video game called “Dante’s Inferno” after the ad initially featured the phrase “Go To Hell.” It was later changed to “Hell Awaits.” That same year, CBS shot down an ad for Man Crunch, a dating website for gay men that featured two men wearing football jerseys while holding hands.
While it’s usually a safe bet that the big game will be hit with a number of complaints from viewers for everything from commercials to halftime performances like Beyoncé’s from last year, the league does have to walk a fine like when it comes to profits and the brands they associate with the biggest day of the NFL year.