NFL tries to reassure women, sponsor Crest is first to retreat
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[September 20, 2014]
By Eric Kelsey and Jennifer Saba
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - When NFL
players strap on their pink shoes and gloves in October for the league's
annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign, it will be doing so with
one less sponsor, a notable retreat blamed on the league's handling of
Crest, Procter & Gamble Co's dental brand, will no longer be
offering pink mouth guards to NFL players, the company said on
Friday, the first sponsor to publicly withdraw from the NFL's
signature overture to women.
"The brand has decided to cancel on-field activation with NFL
teams," Procter & Gamble said in a statement.
The company added it will honor its planned $100,000 donation to the
American Cancer Society, the NFL's long-time partner in the October
Procter & Gamble's retreat from the NFL's game plan to woo women
illustrates the risk America's most popular sports league faces with
its female fans while it seeks to correct its acknowledged poor
handling of domestic violence cases.
"From a family perspective it makes it really hard to support it
(the NFL) even though lots of people love it," said Kelley Skoloda,
a women's marketing expert at Ketchum Inc.
The NFL draws 6 million women to games every week and women account
for about 45 percent of the league's audience. Women represent a key
growth area for the league which has nearly maxed out its audience
among U.S. men.
On Friday, a chastened NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sought to take
control of the public outcry, vowing that the league would change
its personal conduct policy and he would cede some power in the
Domestic violence mushroomed into an issue for the league when
Goodell suspended former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice two
games for knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, a punishment
considered by many as too lenient.
Goodell later bowed to public pressure and reversed course,
suspending Rice indefinitely when website TMZ published a video of
the punch on Sept. 8.
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Sponsors sought to distance themselves from the NFL this week with
consumer brands McDonald's Corp, Campbell's Soup Co and
Anheuser-Busch InBev saying they had expressed their concerns to the
"I believe that women became open to becoming serious NFL fans
because they were not aware to Roger Goodell's and owners' response
to domestic violence," said Terry O'Neill, the president of the
National Organization for Women, which has called for Goodell to
For its part, the NFL has donated some $6 million to the American
Cancer Society for education and screening grants.
Skoloda, a marketing expert, says for the NFL's female fans and the
sponsors who want to court them, it is a defining moment for the
Women, who tend to judge their personal success on the well-being of
their children according to Skoloda, are also grappling with the
long-term health effects of football, including brain trauma.
"They're playing with things that are at the very top of the list of
how moms and women define their personal success," said Skoloda.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)
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