Troy Polamalu in the shampoo ad: The hair is a wig, but the smile is real.
By Maria Sciullo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
His hair has its own website, so is it any wonder Troy Polamalu's long, flowing tresses are now insured by Lloyd's of London?
The Head & Shoulders shampoo spokesman/Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro safety will be protected from on-the-field follicle disaster to the tune of $1 million this season. Parent company Procter & Gamble announced Monday it was sporting the bill.
"The policy itself, unlike most insurance policies, is not necessarily as boring as you might think," said Jonathan Thomas, accident and health underwriter for the Watkins Syndicate at Lloyd's.
Clients have been insuring everything from passenger ships to dancers' legs since a group of underwriters began working out of New Lloyd's Coffee House in 1769. Edward Lloyd himself ran the original coffee house on Tower Street, where men would conduct all manner of business. He died in 1713.
Lloyd's of London is a collection of underwriters that provide insurance for clients both serious -- $9.6 billion against disaster at the recent World Cup championships in South Africa, a yet-disclosed amount involving the Deepwater Horizon oil rig -- as well as fun.
Jimmy Durante's nose, the legs of Cyd Charisse and Betty Grable, actress America Ferrara's smile, and now Mr. Polamalu's hair are all part of the legend of Lloyd's.
The idea of "celebrity" insurance has been around "for a long, long time. But it's probably become more prevalent in the last 10 years," Mr. Thomas said. While one can argue that Mr. Polamalu's hair is not crucial to his performance on the field, "in this case, he has an income stream that comes from one particular part of his body that is clearly identifying, and thus can be justified [to insure]."
"Besides having that iconic hair, Troy is a wonderful and genuine person," said April Anslinger, North American Head & Shoulders brand manager, adding that Mr. Polamalu has used its shampoo since he was a small boy.
The player's grandparents hail from the island village of Tau, which is part of American Samoa. The long hair is a symbol of his heritage and the Samoan warrior tradition; it's considered a practical way to soften the blow from an enemy weapon.
The idea to insure with Lloyd's of London came from public relations agency Marina Maher Communications. "A brilliant idea, because at the end of the day, we know hair, and we want to protect our [spokesman's] best asset," Mrs. Anslinger said.
"We know that Lloyd's has insured J-Lo's [Jennifer Lopez] behind, so we had to validate that he basically has million-dollar hair."
The whole ad campaign is all so tongue-in-cheek. After all, why in the world would Mr. Polamalu, with that magnificent Samoan hairstyle, need one of the Head & Shoulder products called "Hair Endurance," that promotes "fuller, thicker" hair?
"Clearly, Troy does not need to be using the product, but he does," Mrs. Anslinger said.
For his part, Mr. Polamalu was game to go along with the insurance company's physical exam. A trichologist, or hair and scalp specialist, gave him the once-over to determine that his mane is indeed that healthy, lush -- and real.
"It's just like having your house surveyed [before being approved for insurance]," Mr. Thomas said with a chuckle.
Mr. Polamalu also had to submit hair samples. Because he wasn't about to cut any, he took some off his brush at home.
Because in Steelers Nation, where there is no such thing as too much information, here are a few of the policy's minute details.
• The defensive star would have to lose at least 60 percent of his hair to be compensated. Granted, he has a lot of hair to begin with -- reports indicate Mr. Polamalu hasn't had a haircut in more than seven years -- but that still would be a pretty major makeover.
• Mr. Polamalu's hair is insured against on-field events only.
• Hair loss or damage cannot be from natural causes. Hair torn out or being set on fire? Yes, of course one wonders how that might occur on the field. If his hair falls out because of alopecia or male pattern baldness, "no," Mr. Thomas said.
That grab-the-hair tackle by Kansas City's Larry Johnson after an interception in 2006? Yes, that would be covered.
The whole hair affair is part of Head & Shoulders' ad campaign that kicked off earlier this week. The first of three television spots that will run during national sports, entertainment and comedy programming, was broadcast Monday, and www.troyshair.com is a veritable "Polamalooza" of games, interactive features and contests geared toward a young, male market.
In one of the goofiest features, "You can upload your picture and surround yourself with Troy's hair," Mrs. Anslinger said.