HUGE PROMOTIONS KEY AS SOFT DRINKS ENTER SUMMER: PEPSI TEAMS WITH SPORTS STARS WHILE COKE'S EFFORT OFFERS DEBIT CARDS

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The summer soft-drink battle starts in earnest next week when Pepsi-Cola Co. breaks its estimated $50 million-plus "Pepsi Stuff" promotion.

Pepsi has enlisted an all-star sports lineup for its promotion, including Shaquille O'Neal, Picabo Street, Derek Jeter, Andre Agassi and Deion Sanders.

In addition to ordering sports-related merchandise by collecting Pepsi points, consumers can win prizes such as box seats for the '97 World Series and coaching from Mr. Jeter to throw out the opening pitch at the second game.

SKIING LESSONS FROM PICABO

Other "fantasy" prizes include a week at Vail, Colo., with skiing lessons from Ms. Street; $50,000 in stock of the parent company of the All Star Cafe; and tickets to the Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day football game and a meeting with Mr. Sanders.

The sports stars appear in a TV campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, for "Pepsi Stuff," as well as in in-store advertising starting this month. The "Pepsi Stuff" grand prize winner is scheduled to be announced on MTV Sept. 27.

Coca-Cola Co. is expected to match or exceed Pepsi's summer promotional spending with its "Incredible Summer" effort (AA, May 5). The promotion, breaking in early June, offers consumers debit cards inside Coca-Cola packages that can be redeemed at automated teller machines for amounts up to $100.

Coke is expected to spend $10 million to $15 million on advertising alone for the promotion.

For its new Surge brand, Coca-Cola started a promotion last week running until June 6 in which the company will give away Checker cabs painted with the soft-drink logo in a 25-market promotion. The sweepstakes will also give away theme park and movie passes and coupons for pizza and Surge gear, including a Surge CD with the music of Luscious Jackson and Stir. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles advertising for Surge.

GATORADE'S SPORTS PUSH

Pepsi's promotion is most closely allied with Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade summer "Ultimate Sports Experience" promotion, in which consumers can win a trip to the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 and Stanley Cup. Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, is handling advertising for that promotion.

Snapple, being acquired by Triarc Cos., is going ahead with its summer promotion, "Surfin' Made Simple," offering a Sony Web TV in an under-the-cap instant-win game.

Borrowing a page from Gatorade, Snapple this season is also introducing 20-ounce plastic packaging for its drinks and a squeeze bottle in strawberry, grape, watermelon and apple-cherry varieties. Ads for Snapple are also likely to include former spokeswoman Wendy, according to industry executives. But Snapple

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