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GNC out of Super Bowl after NFL nixes advertisement

By Tim Baysinger

(Reuters) - GNC Holdings Inc will not advertise during Sunday's Super Bowl after the National Football League rejected the retailer's advertisement due to its policy against promoting supplements, the league and GNC confirmed on Tuesday.

Fox has been commanding an average of $5 million per 30 seconds of air time, and GNC's spot was supposed to kick off the company’s turnaround effort. Sales at the vitamin retailer have dropped consistently, including an 8.5 percent fall in same-store sales in domestic company-owned stores during the third quarter of 2016.

During the quarterly earnings call, interim CEO Robert Moran described GNC as having "a badly broken business model in need of change." The company closed all its stores for one day in December to re-launch its pricing structure to align in-store and online purchases.

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"While we are disappointed by Fox Sports/NFL's late-in-the-game decision to exclude our ad from the Super Bowl, we continue to be excited about the campaign," Jeff Hennion, GNC's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

The company had released a trio of online teasers for the commercials, which featured inspirational voiceovers of a boxer, a drummer and a swimmer. Hennion added that the campaign will still run on other media outlets.

According to USA Today, which first reported the ad's rejection, GNC is listed under "prohibited companies" on a memo from the NFL and its players union because the company is associated with substances banned by the league.

"We have told the network it may not air in Super Bowl or any NFL programming," an NFL spokesperson told Reuters in an email. "This was communicated to the network several weeks ago."

While Fox sells the commercial time for the game, the league has final say over advertising during its biggest event.

Fox does not comment on which brands buy commercial time during the Super Bowl. It was not clear why, if the league has a policy against advertising supplements, GNC was allowed to buy a spot in the first place.

Fox declined to comment.

“The NFL is one of many sports governing bodies, all with specific and widely varying policies. At GNC, we follow FDA regulations and our own strict standards,” Hennion added in his statement.

(Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by Dan Grebler)

 
 
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