As NFL tries to reassure women, sponsor Crest is first to retreat

Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:38pm EDT
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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 domestic violence.

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 campaign.

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 process.   Continued...

A Denver Broncos player wears pink cleats in recognition of breast cancer awareness month before competing against the Dallas Cowboys in their NFL football game in Denver October 4, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking