Coca-Cola Wants a Seat at the Super Bowl

Soda Giant Mulls Another Return to Game That's Served as Pepsi Showcase

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Super Bowl is known best as a gridiron contest between NFL greats. But it is fast emerging as a battleground between two of the marketing world's greatest rivals: Coke and Pepsi.

After making a splash last February by returning to the pigskin classic after an eight-year hiatus, Coca-Cola is mulling another appearance, according to a person familiar with the situation. Super Bowl XLII takes place Feb. 3 in Phoenix and is set to air on News Corp.'s Fox network.

From Ray Charles to Britney Spears
PepsiCo has held sway at the game for years, using it as a platform to promote everything from Diet Pepsi, which Ray Charles sang about in 1991, to its flagship drink touted by Britney Spears and Yahoo (in 2002). Not so since Coke's return.

Using two clever ads from its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Coca-Cola scored at the Bowl creatively in consumers' eyes -- even though its ads had appeared during "American Idol" and in movie theaters before making their Super Bowl debuts. Pepsi sponsored the event's halftime show, but Coke's ads got the chatter.

One Coke ad looked like a video game, featuring an animated do-gooder character passing out the company's popular soda to others he encountered. The other took an offbeat look at what happens inside a vending machine. On the beverage front, Pepsi promoted Sierra Mist, using improv comedians who had appeared previously in ads created by BBDO for the beverage. One spot centered on a man who wore a non-traditional hairstyle -- the "beard comb-over."

Filling writers strike void
Fox's sales of Super Bowl ad time have sold more briskly than in years past, even though the network has sought as much as $2.7 million for a 30-second spot -- and in some cases, more. The big game has long been seen as a place where advertisers can reach millions of people in one fell swoop, but the ongoing writers' strike makes the event even more valuable in marketers' eyes. Come February, the networks will have few if any original episodes of their most popular programs, and will instead have to stock the airwaves mainly with reality programs and mid-season replacements.

Other advertisers who are coming to the game include Anheuser-Busch -- a perennial attendee -- Cars.com, Audi of America and several movie studios. Bridgestone Firestone North America is sponsoring the halftime show and will run two 30-second ads for its Bridgestone tires during the game.

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