GNC, the vitamin and supplement retailer, is preparing to pursue legal action against Fox Broadcasting, claiming that it suffered "significant economic and reputational damages, lost opportunities, and consequential damages" because the network rejected the brand's first-ever Super Bowl ad after initially clearing it. According to reports, the network sold GNC a 30-second spot during the game and "induced GNC to spend millions" on producing and developing the ad. The National Football League (NFL) made Fox nix the spot days before the Super Bowl because GNC sells some products containing two substances that are banned by the NFL, although neither product appears in the commercial. The ad was very important to GNC: The company reportedly spent more on the ad than what it spent on measured media in the U.S. in all of 2015, and it had centered its long-planned brand relaunch around its ad in the Super Bowl.
Total Retail's Take: Experts say the move is unprecedented in the industry and could have a lasting impact on Super Bowls to come. While ads have been rejected before, typically companies are told about the change of plans early in the process, not less than a week before the game. (The networks broadcasting the game historically have reserved the right to withdraw their approval at any time, however). As a result of the GNC lawsuit, there could be a ramped-up timeline next year for ad approvals. Marketers will most likely demand approvals early on from NBC, the network airing next year's game.