BEVERAGES: HEADS OF TOP SOFT-DRINK BRANDS BRING BUDGET ARTILLERY, SMARTS TO BATTLEFIELD

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Trained in the same trenches, Coca-Cola Co.'s Sergio Zyman and Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Brian Swette fight the cola war using different tactics, but they share a basic-and broad-understanding of marketing.

Messrs. Zyman and Swette, along with Sue Wellington, who runs Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade brand, personify the essence of power not just in the beverage business but also in all of marketing.

As the shepherds of high-profile, heavily supported brands, this trio, along with their respective marketing teams and advertising agencies, wields an immense amount of influence in marketing, as well as with media outlets looking to get a piece of their budgets.

This distinction has earned these executives inclusion in Advertising Age's second annual Power 50 selection.

For Messrs. Zyman and Swette, the best marketing surrounds and involves consumers. And both men are coming off a summer that showed they know how to do exactly that.

For Coca-Cola, this summer's plan was no Olympics versus `Stuff'

surprise: The brand's longtime marketing partner, the Olympics, was coming to its hometown of Atlanta. As expected, Mr. Zyman, his staff and his agencies leveraged that connection for all they could, with a blitz of Olympics advertising, a temporary theme park, in-store promotions, a Web site and numerous other related efforts.

"Sponsorship's not enough," says Mr. Zyman, 51. "The real critical thing is how you link your brand."

IGNORE CLICHES

He pushed his marketing managers and agencies to ignore celebrity endorsements and cliches about striving for excellence. Though those both appeared in Coca-Cola's overall plans, its core Olympics ad campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., focused on Coke Classic's history and stature as a universally recognized icon by showing pictures of the brand at the Olympics dating back to 1928.

For Pepsi-Cola, the summer presented a challenge. How could it keep its sales flowing in the face of its rival's Olympics onslaught? The marketer decided to try its biggest consumer promotion ever, Pepsi Stuff.

In a format tried and proven by other megabrands such as Marlboro cigarettes, Pepsi put out a catalog of brand-labeled merchandise, from clothes to bikes, that consumers could buy with proof-of-purchase redemptions.

"The difference for us is engagement," says Mr. Swette, 42. "This was all about Pepsi. There was no borrowed interest."

The promotion helped develop Pepsi's image as young, hip and energetic, he adds.

SUMMER GAINS

Both efforts worked. Through July 14, Coca-Cola Co.'s '96 volume had increased 11%, according to PaineWebber, while Pepsi-Cola Co. had gained 8%. Pepsi's volume growth outpaced Coke's in the four-week period just prior to the Olympics, 12% to 10%. Results from during and after the Olympics weren't available at press time.

For both companies, achieving such results hinged on more than advertising or promotions. In the $52 billion soft-drink industry, a promotion or ad campaign is only as good as the bottlers who stack the product in the stores make it. A big part of these chief marketing officers' jobs is marshaling the support of their entire systems behind their marketing plans.

In fact, both men are well aware that marketing extends far beyond a TV commercial or in-store promotion.

"Coolers on college campuses are part of marketing," Mr. Swette says. Mr. Zyman would concur: He loves the "Always Coca-Cola" campaign for its simplicity and adaptability to all kinds of media

Battling a monster brand and messages.

But where both companies fell during the year is in trying to upstage sports-drink giant Gatorade, a monster brand stewarded by VP-Marketing Sue Wellington.

Although both marketers put aggressive resources behind their sports drinks, neither made a big splash against Gatorade.

GATORADE AT 79.8% SHARE

Supported by the estimated $100 million-plus marketing budget Ms. Wellington manages, Gatorade gained 3% in supermarket sales to $392.9 million for the 52-week period ended May 19, giving it a 79.8% share of the category, according to Information Resources Inc.

Pepsi's All Sport, meanwhile, had sales of $39.1 million for a 7.9% share of the category and Coke's PowerAde registered $35.3 million in sales for a 7.2% share.

Those figures don't even reflect convenience store sales where Ms. Wellington says volume was up for Gatorade during the core summer season by 25%.

"There's a huge opportunity to be in front [of consumers' minds] whenever they're hot and sweaty," says the 37-year-old executive.

To do so this year, Ms. Wellington, a self-described jock who competed in triathalons and who "hits a pretty good driver," leveraged the brand equity with three new flavors, a new sports bottle introduced in 1994, a new integrated promotion called "Sweat it out" and a new ad campaign stressing the emotional elements of Gatorade, themed "Life's a sport. Drink it up," starring the brand's longtime ad spokesman Michael Jordan.

`UNDERSTANDS THE MINDSET'

"She's a physically active person herself who therefore understands the mindset of the athlete" drinking Gatorade, says Ron Bess, president of Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, who has worked with Ms. Wellington for the better part of a decade.

"With heavy competition, in an Olympics year and without an Olympics association, we still advertised pretty loudly," notes Ms. Wellington. But she says the competition isn't just isotonics but any other beverage.

"Our ads prove that we're the best thirst-quencher on this planet, and they also pull some hearstrings," she says.

But advertising is only half the story; huge resources ensure the familiar orange-and-green logo is visible on the sidelines of nearly every sport. That, says Ms. Wellington, "is no happenstance."

Gatorade's success is supporting sister brand Snapple, which posted a 10% volume decline for Quaker's half ended June 30. The ailing Snapple, which caused an executive reshuffling ousting Quaker beverages head Don Uzzi, is prompting the marketer to consider a range of options from sale to restructuring.

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