P&G Sells Sure: New Owner Plans In-Store Marketing Push

Account-specific retail marketing programs are a top priority for the new owner of Sure deodorant, the leading brand in the unscented deodorant category.

Phoenix-based Innovative Brands LLC, a portfolio company of private equity firm Najafi Cos., announced on Tuesday the acquisition of the deodorant brand from Procter & Gamble Co. Terms of the transaction weren't disclosed, although published reports estimated a price of more than $100 million.

Earlier this year, Innovative Brands purchased the Pert Plus shampoo line from the consumer giant, as P&G began focusing on brands with billion-dollar sales or the potential to reach that level.

The equity retained from the 1980s advertising theme "Raise your hands if you're Sure" and the widespread distribution of the product in grocery and drugstores were both compelling features to the new buyer.

"We plan to invest substantial dollars promoting it, several times what P&G spent," Jahm Najafi, chief executive officer and founder of Najafi Cos. told The Wall Street Journal. "We're going to customize product promotions to the retailer."



At an estimated $2.4 billion--and growing at a rate of 5 percent over the past three years--the U.S. is the world's single largest market for antiperspirant and deodorant. The category is evolving into gender-specific brands, with "body sprays" for teenage boys and segmented products for young women.

Sales of Sure deodorants, not including those at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have fallen sharply over the past five years, to $35.2 million in the 52-week period ended Sept. 10--down from $60 million in 2001, according to Information Resources Inc., which tracks sales in mass retailers other than Wal-Mart.

That compares to $161.9 million in sales for P&G's Secret and $127.9 million for its Old Spice deodorants in the 52-week period ended Sept. 10, according to IRI.

"P&G is really concentrating on deodorant brands that are gender-specific," said Michele Szynal, a P&G communications director. "There is a bigger opportunity to communicate directly about features and benefits. You have products designed specifically for them."

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