NFL nixes GNC's SB LI ad, citing ban on 'advertising of supplements'

An executive with GNC said he was told Monday that the commercial spot the company had prepared for Super Bowl LI will not run on Fox's broadcast Sunday.

Jeff Hennion, GNC's executive vice president and chief marketing and ecommerce officer, said Fox first told him Monday that the 30-second ad, which has a market rate of $5 million, could not run because the company sells products that contain two of the 162 substances banned by the NFL -- synephrine and DHEA.

"We gave Fox the story boards, they approved them, and the rough cut they cleared in writing last week," Hennion told ESPN.

Hennion provided for ESPN the approval emails that Fox sent to GNC, a Pittsburgh-based company in the health nutrition business.

"We have told the network it may not air in Super Bowl or any NFL programming," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN. "This is consistent with our policies that prohibit the advertising of supplements."

Hennion said he was told the NFL didn't like the GNC logo -- which was used in the spot and is in the form of a pill bottle -- because the league was concerned the logo, when shown quickly on television, could be mistaken for GMC, the automaker.

Hennion also said he had no idea that a Super Bowl commercial could be rejected. He said synephrine and DHEA are in roughly 3 percent of GNC products and make up about the same percentage of the company's total sales. Neither synephrine nor DHEA is banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hennion said the company is exploring its legal options.

Unlike other spots that have been rejected in the past, there is nothing controversial or distasteful about the spot itself. The ad features people who are trying to change their lives for the better through fitness.

NFL players are prohibited from endorsing supplement companies such as GNC that sell any products whose ingredients are banned by the league.

Fox did not immediately return a request for comment.