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Tylenol exits NASCAR on heels of huge recalls
Tylenol, which has drastically cut its marketing and advertising in the wake of three product recalls in the last six months, will not renew its official partnership with NASCAR.

The sport’s official pain reliever since the start of the 2007 season, Tylenol’s current deal with NASCAR runs through the 2010 season. But its parent company, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, has already notified NASCAR that it won’t continue its official partnership, a spokesman for the company said.

NASCAR had no comment on Tylenol’s exit.

Tylenol and its motorsports agency, Charlotte-based Millsport, which worked with the brand to create the Team Tylenol platform five years ago, also arranged track deals with International Speedway Corp. and Dover Motorsports. Those deals provided extensive signage for Tylenol, as well as rights to hand out samples and coupons. The ISC deal expired after the 2009 season, while the Dover deal ends this season.

With the official partnership, track and driver deals, Tylenol’s total spend was in the $5 million to $6 million range annually, industry insiders said.

The brand has not activated this year against its Team Tylenol campaign, which started in 2005 to coincide with the launch of its rapid-release gels.

The program included personal-services agreements with seven drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, and the drivers together formed a fictional Team Tylenol in its ads.

“We saw measurable gains in product purchase and product loyalty among NASCAR fans,” said Mike Mooney, Millsport vice president. “But their business has suffered its fair share of headaches recently, so while the NASCAR portfolio was driving sales, the brand management team had to make

some tough decisions and one was to exit NASCAR.”

Tylenol’s most recent recall came on April 30 when it issued a voluntary recall of children’s Tylenol products. McNeil, a division of Johnson & Johnson, shut down a Pennsylvania-based production facility last month because of poor quality control, as cited by the Food and Drug Administration.

McNeil, which also produces Benadryl and Motrin, does not break out the revenue numbers of its different health care brands, but estimates by Johnson & Johnson have indicated that annual sales of the recalled brands could drop $200 million to $300 million this year.

The April 30 recall of the children’s products came on the heels of two other recalls of Tylenol products, one in November 2009 for an arthritis product, and another in January for an adult Tylenol medication.

Marketing and advertising have all but come to a stop because production and shipment have ceased while Tylenol takes “corrective actions,” the company said.

It was November 2006 when Tylenol agreed to a two-year, low-seven-figure deal to become the official pain reliever of NASCAR, beginning with the 2007 season. It renewed for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

NASCAR made the move from longtime sponsor Goody’s Powder to Tylenol because the sanctioning body craved Tylenol’s national reach, compared with Goody’s strong base in the Southeast.

Goody’s, a GlaxoSmithKline product, had been the official pain reliever of NASCAR since 1977, the same year it signed Richard Petty to be a spokesman.

Goody’s, one of the sport’s first non-automotive sponsors, has been the title sponsor of the spring Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Va., since 1983. SceneDaily.com

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