Why GNC's Commercial Was Banned From The Super Bowl

gnc commercial

Even though the ratings for NFL games were largely down in 2016, there's very little doubt that audiences will turn out in mass droves for this year's Super Bowl, commonly the most watched telecast of the TV year. But only part of that is football, since expensive Super Bowl commercials are a past time of their own these days. One commercial that no football viewers will see that day, however, belongs to GNC, which surprisingly had its already purchased spot rejected by the NFL. Why? Because of specific items in GNC's inventory.

That's right, the commercial wasn't yanked from airing due to GNC getting overtly sexual with its promotion, nor any political, gender-based, racial or regional reasons. The NFL apparently placed GNC on a list prohibiting them from working with the league and/or its players' union due to the company's sales of the anabolic steroid DHEA and the supplement synephrine. Both substances are banned by the NFL, as well as many other sports organizations, which was apparently ruled to be too much for the league to deal with.

As you might imagine, GNC execs aren't exactly pleased. Jeff Hennion is GNC's executive vice president and its chief marketing and e-commerce officer, and he explained to USA Today how everyone reacted to the NFL's decision to pull the ad so late in the game. (No pun intended.) In his words:

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.

Unfortunate is putting it lightly. GNC decided to shell out the extra dough for the Super Bowl ad thinking it the best way to promote the company's recent business model change, which will reportedly bring about lower prices, among other improvements. The ad itself is filled with people taking on some form of adversity, with the concept of "change" in the spotlight, and GNC is hosting a Super Bowl party for which the commercial's subjects will be the guests. So it's even more of a bummer for them that the ad won't even make it to air.

While Jeff Hennion didn't disclose how much money GNC spent on the spot, the average ad rate for a 30-second spot is over $5 million, and the company paid a premium for it to air during the first quarter. He also didn't go over how a refund was going to plan out, but he made it sound like this scenario could have inspired him to take those NFL-banned substances out of the store altogether.

We had no discussion with the NFL, or anybody, which is unfair because if we'd had those discussions, we could have put into place a plan to take those two ingredients to zero.

There's obviously no guarantee GNC would have taken DHEA or synephrine off the shelves, but it's interesting that it was offered up plausibly like that. In any case, you can check out the inspiring ad below, sans football.

Super Bowl LI will take place on Sunday, February 5, and it will air on Fox starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can check out some other cool Super Bowl ads like the Coen brothers' excellent offering and the action-packed Jason Statham/Gal Gadot spot, and to see when everything else is coming to the small screen not on Super Bowl Sunday, head to our midseason premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.