The NFL Had a Problem. Tide Helped Solve It


When the National Football League announced in July that opposing teams could no longer exchange jerseys following a game due to Covid-19, players were upset.

“This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell,” tweeted Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers. “Players can go engage in a full contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.”

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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson called the decision “damn silly.”

The tradition of players swapping jerseys, sometimes with signatures included, has grown in popularity in recent years. While the practice reveals how much respect the athletes have for one another, it’s also become complicated due to the ongoing pandemic and social-distancing policies.

Sensing an opportunity, Tide got to work.

In the weeks following the NFL’s ban on exchanging jerseys, the laundry detergent brand, which is owned by Procter & Gamble and has been an official partner of the NFL since 2011, got the league to agree to a clean jersey swap program in which club equipment managers wash the jerseys (presumably with Tide) then mail them to their intended recipients. So far, more than 300 NFL players have signed up for the initiative, according to Tide. The brand is encouraging participating players to post about the exchange on social media.

“The best idea always starts with an amazing insight,” said Jenny Maxwell, senior brand director at P&G’s fabric care division, which oversees Tide. “And if you can partner that with a culturally relevant moment, that makes it just pure gold for us.”

To help promote the project, Tide worked with ESPN to produce a five-minute segment that touches on the history of jersey swapping and explains why the tradition matters to NFL players (e.g. admiration, friendship, man cave memorabilia). A Tide bottle and branded Tide box containing a just-washed jersey make brief appearances. The clip first aired Oct. 11 on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown program.

Today, Tide is also debuting a commercial starring spokesman Peyton Manning. In the 30-second spot created by P&G’s multi-agency Woven Collaborative, the former quarterback struggles to operate a robot while providing an overview of the initiative and touting Tide’s latest product innovation, Tide Hygienic Clean, which is designed to remove dirt and soil that you may not even be able to see on clothes.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, people have been washing their clothes more frequently. Major companies that manufacture laundry products, from Unilever to Church & Dwight and The Clorox Company, have all seen revenue rise in recent months.

“People’s habits and practices have changed quite a bit,” said Maxwell, who noted that shoppers aren’t rewearing the same clothing items as often as they used to without washing them first.

P&G recently reported that its fabric care division, which includes Tide, Downy fabric softener and Bounce dryer sheets, grew by high single digits for the quarter ending Sept. 30. Overall, the Cincinnati-based company’s year-over-year net sales climbed 9% to $19.3 billion, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

During an earnings call with reporters, P&G CFO Jon Moeller noted the company increased marketing spend by more than $100 million throughout the past three-month period compared to the same time last year.

“We view this as a time to step forward in terms of our advertising levels, not to step back,” Moeller said.

The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don’t miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now. 

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