Product misprint spells national PR disaster

by by Richard Goldfarb
Stoel Rives LLP,
Oregon law firm

There is a niche market out there for celebrity-endorsed food products that benefit charities. PLB Sports out of Pittsburgh appears to be a market leader in this niche, labeling products ranging from beef jerky to salsa to mustard with images and slogans relating to both individual sports figures and teams. Probably the most famous of these were Flutie Flakes, a breakfast cereal that supported an autism charity founded by Doug and Laurie Flutie in honor of their son. Usually, the product’s appeal—and its distribution—will be limited to the area where the team or athlete performs; Wayne Chrebet’s fans outside the New York area would have had to buy through PLB’s website.

Chad Ochocinco sponsored “OchocincO’s”, a honey nut toasted oat cereal, to benefit Feed the Children. Mr. Ochocinco, né Chad Johnson, is a flamboyant wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, as renowned for his Twitter feed as his receiving prowess. His personal website will allow you to buy a t-shirt with the slogan, “That ain’t my baby.” He has 1.3 million followers on Twitter and 800,000 people “like” his Facebook page, which can garner over a thousand responses to him asking “what are y’all eating for lunch?” He does not lead a quiet life.

So in some ways it comes as no surprise that there was not just a misprint on the label of “OchocincO’s.” The problem apparently was a wrong toll-free prefix, which isn’t surprising since there are so many of them. Clearly someone, and not Mr. Ochocinco, failed to proof the copy on the box sufficiently before it was printed, the kind of mistake that happens every day. But this particular misprint would lead one, rather than to a number for more information about his selected charity, instead to a phone sex line. And the market for such cereals is of course young fans.

The boxes have been withdrawn from stores and the PLB website states that new boxes with the correct toll-free number will be printed.  Presumably, PLB and the printer will settle whose fault the mistake was.

One imagines, though, that sales of OchcincO’s will soar because of the publicity from the mistake, greatly benefiting his charity. And somehow this just doesn’t seem like it would have happened with Flutie Flakes or David Eckstein’s Ecks’O’s.

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