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What's Next After a P&G Sponsored NFL?


New marketing pact leads the mind to ponder other newfangled sports sponsorships.

Snap those towels, boys, because Procter & Gamble (PG) will soon slap "Official Locker Room Product of the NFL" on about a dozen products, including Old Spice, Gillette, Febreze, Head & Shoulders and Gillette.

It's unclear if use of the products will induce men to pat each other on the butt, macho football style, but the marketing deal will link Procter & Gamble's stink-or-look-pretty products to the largest US sports league by revenue and its legions of fans. The consumer products giant calls this the costliest sponsorship deal in its history.

As the games drone on, it seems that the NFL exists only to sell stuff to the unconscious, unwary or at best unsuspecting naifs who spend millions each year on team merchandise. The Super Bowl is typically a snore, but the imaginative ads become an event and routinely overshadow the game. A few, such as Apple's (AAPL) 1984 ad introducing the Macintosh computer during Super Bowl XVIII, attaint mythic proportions.

Previously, the NFL adopted an "official wing" during the playoffs to plug Yum Brands' (YUM) KFC. The National Basketball Association flogs Joseph Abboud duds sold at J.C. Penney (JCP). The National Hockey League recently conjured up a new player award, the Scotiabank (BNS) Fan Fav.

Where does it end? Maybe here: women purchase most Procter & Gamble products, but represented only about 33% of the NFL's audience last year. The deal therefore could be part of the continuing wussification of America as savvy women buy this stuff for their gross guys in an effort to civilize them.

However, conspiracy theories may be overblown because professional sports leagues have long made an effort to move sponsorships beyond a narrow base of brewers and financial institutions. But somehow, chronic losers like the New York Mets and Citigroup (C) seem made for each other. Citifield, indeed. Why not give the team's new ballyard a literary flare and call it F. Scott Fitzgerald's Valley of Ashes?

Still, a buck is a buck, more or less – even if the greenback's value is crashing. That may explain why terms of Procter and Gamble's deal with the NFL weren't disclosed.

The NFL's marketing muscle and the clout of the other major leagues leaves minor sports jangling the tin cup. Here are some marketing link-ups that the little guys may have overlooked:

Lacrosse – A rollup of independent bail bondsmen could sponsor national telecasts of college games. Just about everything that's illegal in hockey seems to be just ducky in lacrosse, opening up the possibility of criminal mayhem on the field. And then there's the matter of the Duke University lacrosse players, falsely accused in a rape case and almost immediately declared guilty by wise faculty members.

National Bridge League – This is a brainy game that rewards card-counters. So, any food that boosts memory would be a good fit. Del Monte (DLM), Kraft Foods (KFT) and other purveyors of fine carrots, anyone? Rabbit food is supposed to be good for your eyes.

Weight lifting – Biceps thicker than a teddy bear's gut have to be put to use pushing vacuum cleaners, tossing refrigerators and moving washing machines. This makes the sport a perfect fit for General Electric (GE), Whirlpool (WHR), Electrolux (ELUXY) and Maytag.

Caber tossing – The culmination of Scottish civilization. 3M (MMM), maker of Scotch tape, of course.

Political correctness killed the Swedish Bikini Team, once the proud creation of Old Milwaukee, a beer better suited to removing stubborn stains from countertops than guzzling. But they'll never take away Kalasknikovs, perfect for target competitive shooting and blowing up furry creatures in National Parks.
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