Teachable Moment? GNC’s Ad Gets Rejected from the Super Bowl


The average cost to advertise during Super Bowl is $5 million USD for a 30-second slot. Like every one else, GNC invested millions of dollars into a commercial set to air during the big game. Unlike everyone else, they didn’t get to air it.

Over the past year, GNC has been working hard to makeover its image. Just last December, the company closed all 4,464 of its U.S. stores only to re-open them shortly after with a whole new look. The 30-second ad was meant to highlight the supplement retailer’s “One New GNC” rebranding campaign. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t change,” is the opening line, followed by a stream of images of real people making real and significant changes.

Unfortunately, the NFL had no interest in GNC’s efforts as the ad was rejected due to the retailer’s use of banned substances.

In fact, the retailer is listed by the NFL as a prohibited company. A memo shared from the NFL and the NFL Players Association bans players from endorsing GNC due to their being “associated with the production, manufacture or distribution of NFL banned substances.”

GNC only learned of the rejection on Monday through FOX.

While the Super Bowl ad makes no mention of any vitamins or supplements whatsoever, the company does sell two supplements prohibited by the NFL: the stimulant synephrine and the steroid hormone DHEA, according to GNC marketing chief Jenn Hennion.

“We were surprised,” continued Hennion. “It’s unfortunate given that it’s been very public for at least 45 days or so that we were going to be on the Super Bowl. And to have it rejected six days before the game, after a lot of our media had already gone live, it was certainly unfortunate.”

GNC has since sent Fox Broadcasting Co. a letter of intent, stating plans to pursue legal action due to “significant economic and reputational damages, lost opportunities, and consequential damages.”

While you may not think GNC’s snafu with the NFL is relevant to your business, it does represent some of the issues that can arise for independent health and wellness brands. As fellow writer Amy Van Es helpfully points out, “The FDA provides guidance to vitamin and supplement brands. The guidelines are compiled in a set of standards called the Current Good Manufacturing Practices.” But what vitamin and supplement brands must consider is that the FDA isn’t the only party they need to answer to. There are plenty of third-party certifications that make a brand more legitimate in the consumer’s mind (and keeps them safe). As a business owner, you must think about these other interested parties as well. For GNC, it was the NFL. For a craft brand, it’s a matter making sure you’ve been cleared by a number of nationally recognized organizations like the NSF, Consumer Lab, and the USP.

GNC’s ad ends on an inspirational note, “Change is your destiny – chase it.” As a small business, the ball is in your court when it comes to making the necessary changes to better position yourself in front of your consumer.

Dayana Cadet

Dayana Cadet

Dayana’s love affair with writing spans all manner of content. As the Content Specialist at Hubba, connecting people to the things they love is where she thrives.

Follow her at @D_isforDayana
Dayana Cadet