COCA-COLA BACKING SURGE WITH PROMO OFFERING TRIPS: MOUNTAIN DEW LINKS WITH PEPSI'S POP CULTURE PUSH

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Competition is heating up in the non-cola soft drink market as archrivals Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsi-Cola Co. ready major national summer promotions for their Surge and Mountain Dew brands.

Coca-Cola plans to back Surge, a bright green soda, with a multifaceted promotion dubbed "Surge around the world." The grand prize is a four-day trip in a private plane for the winner and five friends, with up to eight stops in cities of their choosing.

Some 11.5 million prizes are linked to the promotion.

Pepsi plans to announce its major summer push in the next few weeks, a game board promotion called Pop Culture featuring phrases for consumers to complete in order to win prizes (AA, March 30). The promotion will link Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, supported by TV spots from BBDO Worldwide, New York.

PLAYING INTO PEPSI STUFF

The company declined to discuss details, although an executive close to Pepsi said Pop Culture will play into the marketer's 2-year-old Pepsi Stuff promotion.

For Surge, Coca-Cola plans to tie into 50 local markets with additional trips in private jets for one winner in each market and three friends to a U.S. destination of their choice within 2 hours of their hometown, plus $500 in cash.

Michael Guth, group manager of new business initiatives, Coca-Cola USA, said the marketer wants to tap into the brand's character of being about "spontaneous good times with friends."

SEEKING UNIQUE EXPERIENCES

He said target consumers -- 12-to-24-year-olds -- want "compelling odds and an experience they couldn't get on their own" from a soft drink promotion.

The promotion runs June 8 through Sept. 30, and will be backed by a 15-second national TV spot and radio commercials from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Spending couldn't be determined, but a Coca-Cola spokesman said the promotion is twice as large as last summer's effort.

That promotion included giveaways of 39 refurbished Checker Cabs in some two dozen markets.

According to Competitive Media Reporting, Coca-Cola spent $13.6 million in measured media on Surge last year, as it was gradually rolled into about half the U.S. Since December, the brand has been expanded to about 90% of the country.

Surge also is expanding its ties to the NHL this summer via various in-line skating events.

TOUGH TO BEAT

Mountain Dew is a difficult challenge for Surge. The Pepsi brand was the fastest-growing soft drink among the top 10 in the $54 billion U.S. market for carbonated beverages in `97, according to consultancy Beverage Marketing Corp.

Over the past three years, Mountain Dew passed up Diet Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Sprite to gain its current position as the fourth-largest soft drink brand, said Beverage Marketing.

Pepsi backed Mountain Dew, a 53-year-old brand, with $40 million in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The summer promotions arrive as both marketer's are introducing other non-cola brands: Pepsi's Storm is in a Denver test and Coca-Cola's Citra is now in about half the U.S.

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