P&G Wants NFL To Tackle Problems Before Next Season

While the NFL and its players' union face a possible work stoppage next season, the specter may be having an effect on marketers' plans already. Hypothetically, the two sides could resolve their labor dispute just before opening day, but some companies with NFL sponsorships need to inform retailers about related marketing plans months ahead.

"The biggest issue that we face is, we are bound by our retailers ... our time line is a lot shorter than, say, the NFL or the players' association," said David Palmer, Procter & Gamble's head of global sports marketing.

It would be curious if an Old Spice package or Febreze bottle had an NFL shield on it next fall, and the NFL had a lockout and no action. Palmer said P&G has some pressure to tip retailers off about its July 2011 plans now.

"Uncertainty obviously is not a friend," he said Tuesday at an IMG sports symposium in New York.

P&G has a deal with the NFL that allows it to plug some brands as official "locker room products of the NFL." The deal expires after this season, but Palmer said he expects it to be renewed.



P&G also has separate relationships with particular teams and a Head & Shoulders endorsement deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu. But the fact that P&G has had to make the various deals through different channels piques Palmer.

"A little bit of one-stop shopping would be nice," he said, referring not just to the NFL but to other leagues.

In the NFL's case, his request is about as realistic as the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. The league and players are feuding over a new contract and the owners of teams such as the Dallas Cowboys seem to want to go their own way.

"What's it going to take?" Palmer asked. "Why do I have to solve your problem?"

With the NFL deal and a long-term agreement with the International Olympic Committee, P&G is likely to continue to boost its spending on sports marketing, which could be as much as $2.2 billion a year globally.

The figure comes from P&G having spent an estimated $8.7 billion in advertising in its most recent fiscal year; Palmer says 20% to 25% of the budget is sports marketing.

There are two trends emerging at P&G in the sports realm that run counter to the company's long-held operational silos. Managers are charged with building their own brands, and control all aspects from advertising on down.

But the company is looking to brand itself, hoping to trade off its 173-year heritage and other attributes, which can bring a call for newfound cooperation. Noteworthy was the "Proud Sponsor of Moms" campaign during the Vancouver Olympics that promoted a slew of its brands at once.

P&G also is looking to centralize sports sponsorship deals, having them run through Palmer's group rather than the individual brand level. The move can take advantage of combined muscle à la the NFL deal.

P&G has been "thinking and approaching things from a company standpoint, thinking of P&G as a brand and really trying to leverage scale," Palmer said.

But the all-for-one-one-for-all ethos has not always gone over well at P&G headquarters in Cincinnati and other outposts. Palmer said he is acting as internal diplomat trying to convince the marketers there are benefits in media buying and at retail in "play(ing) together."

"We have varying degrees of success with that ... quite frankly, it's difficult at times," he said.

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