SBD/January 20, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL Urged Toyota To Remove Helmet-To-Helmet Hit From Ad

NFL prods Toyota to edit out helmet-to-helmet tackle in recent TV spot

NFL and Toyota reps said that the league "prodded" the company to "edit a television commercial, removing an image of a helmet-to-helmet tackle at a time when the effects of concussions have come under heavy scrutiny," according to Ben Klayman of REUTERS. The ad shows "images of football players and brain scans" as Wake Forest Univ. professors "discuss the potential use of Toyota technology to help to understand and prevent brain injuries." Toyota "aired the ad during NFL games on the week of November 8" due to the large number of viewers that would see the commercial. Tim Morrison, the Corporate Marketing Manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, noted the league "saw it on Monday Night Football and the next morning we got the call." Morrison: "They weren't happy. I'm sure if they'd had their druthers, we'd have pulled the spot. We weren't pulling the spot. We couldn't. But we never intended the spot to irritate the NFL." Klayman noted Toyota instead changed the ad after the NFL "complained and warned that the spot would not be allowed to air during its highly watched games." Morrison said that the commercial was "re-edited to remove the offending image despite grumbling by some at the automaker," and the ad "remains in rotation." Morrison: "It was just 'please, don't show it,' so we just tweaked it and took the image out." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said, "From time to time, we will address an ad that portrays our sport unfairly" (REUTERS, 1/19). AD WEEK’s Brain Morrissey writes the move “might be more trouble than it’s worth for the NFL.” It is “sure to shed an unfavourable light on the league’s late reaction to its concussion problem at a time when it’s preparing for a major labor showdown with players.” Morrissey: “Sometimes it’s best to just let things be” (, 1/20).

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