Super Bowl ad lineup shuffled

Gatorade, Trident make big game debut while E*Trade, others are missing from list of sponsors.

By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Reebok is back. E*Trade is missing. Volkswagen is gone but Chrysler has taken its place. Gatorade and Trident are making their first appearances.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be the only new participants in this year’s Super Bowl, and the Oakland Raiders aren’t the only ones making a return after a long absence. The lineup of advertisers for the big game also has been shuffled.

Sports drink Gatorade has never bought time on the game before, despite making appearances on both teams’ sidelines and on the head of the winning coach in many NFL games past. The unit of long-time Super Bowl sponsor PepsiCo (PEP: Research, Estimates) will air a commercial with pitchman Michael Jordan in a computer-generated one-on-one battle with a younger version of himself.

“January is not our key advertising season,” Gatorade spokesman Andy Horrow said about the company’s past absence from the game. He noted that Gatorade spends most of its ad dollars during the warmer weather.

But with Gatorade now sponsoring college football’s Bowl Championship Series, it had a new campaign ready. Horrow said the good reaction to the Jordan ads that aired during the bowl games prompted Pepsi to air the Gatorade ad in one of its Super Bowl slots.

The fact that the Jordan ad aired previously violated an unwritten rule by major advertisers that Super Bowl ads should make their debut on the big game.

“You can’t fight popular perception. Popular perception is you don’t air already-seen spots,” said Seth Siegel, co-founder and chairman of the licensing division of Beanstalk Group, a leading licensing agency. “There’s an expectation by consumers of novelty.”

Horrow said Gatorade isn’t worried about going against that convention.

“If it’s an unwritten rule, we’re not violating anything,” he said. The ad will not wait until hot weather to air again — it’s slated to appear on National Basketball Association games, including the league’s All-Star game next month.

Hanes, Reebok return, Trident debuts

Jordan also will be making an appearance in an ad for Hanes underwear, a unit of Sara Lee Corp. (SLE: Research, Estimates), teaming with action film star Jackie Chan to advertise its tagless T-shirts. Hanes is making its first Super Bowl appearance since 1985. Neither Hanes nor Gatorade said they are concerned about sharing the popular pitchman in the same game.

“Hanes has been working with Michael Jordan for 15 years. Michael’s personality and popularity are enduring,” Hanes spokeswoman Laura Burrows said.

Trident sugarless chewing gum is debuting a 15-second spot that focuses on the one dentist in five who doesn’t recommend Trident for his patients who chew gum. The ad shows a squirrel running up the dentist’s pants leg, making him shout “no” when asked for his gum recommendation.

“We didn’t design the campaign with the Super Bowl in mind,” said Tom McPartlin, marketing director for Trident, a unit of drugmaker Pfizer (PFE: Research, Estimates) that is being sold to Cadbury Schwepps PLC (CSG: Research, Estimates). “But once we developed the ads, they tested so well we decided the Super Bowl is a great showcase for advertising, particularly ads with a humorous bend to it.”

Reebok (RBK: Research, Estimates) also is debuting a humorous, possibly controversial ad, its first time on the Super Bowl since 1994.

The athletic shoe and apparel maker said that since the winter is not a prime time for athletic shoe sales, it has shied away from Super Bowl ads the last few years, according to Brian Povinelli, the company’s director of global advertising. But with Reebok’s new deal to be the sole apparel supplier to NFL, it decided it should advertise on the game once more.

The spots show an actor playing the character “Terry Tate, office linebacker,” who roams an office wearing Reebok shoes and a football jersey tackling annoying co-workers.

The company made a point of saying it does not endorse workplace violence, and its statement announcing the ad gave the Web address for the Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s guidelines on preventing work place violence.

“I don’t think we’re expecting that,” said Povinelli when asked if the company is braced for criticism from workplace violence activists. “We want to be sensitive to issues. But we’ve produced an ad in a humorous way that is just poking fun at the things people are frustrated by day in and day out in the workplace environment.”

No matter the reaction, Povinelli said, the ad is likely to go on the shelf after the Super Bowl due to the end of the football season, though the campaign could be reintroduced later in the year.

Willie Nelson and Celine Dion

Tax preparer H&R Block, which made its first Super Bowl appearance last year, returns this year with an ad featuring bearded country singer Willie Nelson, who has suffered from tax problems of his own. The ad has Nelson objecting to his agent’s suggestion to do a shaving cream ad until he’s reminded how much he owes in taxes.

The ad is a pitch for H&R Block to let clients check previous years’ returns, looking for additional savings. Nikki Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the tax preparer, said that unlike some other advertisers, the Super Bowl is well-timed for the company’s advertising needs.

“This is the start of tax season, with people receiving 1040s in mail,” she said. The Nelson ad will get wide play after the game.

Not all the high-profile ads will take a humorous bent, although that has been a theme of many campaigns in recent years. Chrysler will debut ads with its new celebrity endorser, singer Celine Dion, for its new sport/utility wagon, the Pacifica.

Some high-profile advertisers missing

But some past advertisers will not be back. E*Trade, which has sponsored the half-time shows of the last three Super Bowls, is not advertising this year.

“E*Trade takes a disciplined approach to every sponsorship opportunity, a model that has led to significant return on investment,” the company said in a statement. “This year we elected to sponsor the Rolling Stones world tour instead. The demographic of concert goers directly matches with those of E*Trade customers.”

General Electric Co. (GE: Research, Estimates) also is rolling out a new $100 million advertising campaign, replacing its 25-year old “GE brings good things to life” slogan with “Imagination at work.” But the humorous ads, which include a GE jet engine strapped to the top of the Wright Brothers’ plane, won’t be seen during the Super Bowl. The company instead decided to debut the ads on this past Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards show, which was broadcast on GE unit NBC.

“We took a look at the Super Bowl and decided for a number of reasons it wasn’t the right buy for us,” said Judy Hu, general manager of corporate advertising for GE. “It’s getting to be a little cluttered, competing for the mind’s eye. And in terms of numbers, it doesn’t make sense to use both venues so close together. And Golden Globe is a great NBC property.”


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