The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NFL reportedly nixes GNC Super Bowl ad over association with banned substances

The NFL’s players’ union reportedly wanted to avoid an awkward scenario. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
Placeholder while article actions load

Less than a week before Super Bowl Sunday, the nutritional supplement company GNC learned its ad will not air during the game. The reason, according to one of the company’s executives, is because a small sliver of its products contain substances that are banned by the NFL.

“We got the word at 1 p.m. today,” GNC Vice President of Marketing and E-Commerce Jeff Hennion told Ad Age on Monday. “It was the first time they showed any concern.”

The ad, which GNC released Tuesday, doesn’t show anyone taking any supplements. However, according to USA Today, the NFL Players Association voiced concern over the company’s general association “with the production, manufacture or distribution” of the banned substances. It was this concern, the paper says, that led GNC to be included on a list of “prohibited companies” that the NFL circulated in a memo.

Budweiser’s Super Bowl LI ad will tell the story of American immigrants

Hennion said GNC’s advertising team is “extremely disappointed” to have had its ad rejected because of what he said is less than 3 percent of its products containing two substances that are on the NFL’s 162-item list and that the ad will still air, just not during the game.

While Hennion said the rejection came mostly as a surprise, the days before the final decision gave him and others at GNC “a weird feeling.” He told Ad Age that Fox, the network slated to air the game, asked GNC to alter its logo, which consists of a pill bottle containing the company’s initials.

Neither Fox nor the NFL, which Hennion told Ad Age gets final say over which ads air during the annual event, have commented publicly on the news.