Pepsi brand takes a pass on Super Bowl

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The streak has ended. For the first time since 1985, Pepsi-Cola Co. won't feature its flagship brand on the big game despite winning numerous kudos for its commercials.

The move reflects a major strategy change for the nation's No. 2 beverage marketer, which has long used the Super Bowl as a showcase to present new Pepsi-Cola work to consumers, bottlers and distributors.

Rather than spend millions of dollars for a few precious time slots, Pepsi will now spend those funds later in the year during the key spring and summer seasons. The marketer spent some $6.5 million to buy five, 30-second spots on the Super Bowl last year, four devoted to Pepsi and one for its Lipton Brisk iced tea.


The company isn't completely avoiding the spotlight this year, however. It has spent about $3.2 million to buy two Super Bowl :30s, one for Mountain Dew and the other for Pepsi One.

"It's our biggest new-product launch in history, and we are doing everything we can to introduce and re-introduce people to Pepsi One over the next year," a Pepsi spokesman said.

The Pepsi One commercial shoots this week in Los Angeles, and again stars pitchman Cuba Gooding Jr.

BBDO Worldwide, New York,

Brand Pepsi, meanwhile. will use the March 21 Academy Awards broadcast on ABC to debut its latest campaign. That broadcast is typically the second most-watched TV event after the Super Bowl, and it comes closer to the warm-weather seasons important for soft drinks.

Pepsi replaces archrival Coca-Cola as Oscar's soft-drink sponsor this year.

That new Pepsi work will have a fresh theme to replace "Generation Next" and will focus on the "fun side of soft drinks," according to a Pepsi bottler.

Pepsi-Cola and BBDO declined comment on the new work.

The Oscar commercials will reflect the first advertising revamp for the core Pepsi brand since Phil Marineau was brought in from Quaker Oats Co. in late 1997 to run Pepsi-Cola North America as president-CEO.


"Since Phil Marineau came in, they are rethinking everything," said Jennifer Solomon, a beverage analyst with Salomon Bros. "I'm encouraged that they are willing to rethink everything they do."

With Pepsi now out the Super Bowl, the marketer won't gather bottlers prior to the Super Bowl, as it usually has for an annual meeting and advertising preview. It will instead hold that meeting in early March.


The commercials unveiled at last year's event drew bad reviews from bottlers, and were seen as a factor behind the departure of longtime marketing chief Brian Sweete.

"We came up with glitz and glamour commercials rather than talking about the benefit of the product and the value to the consumer," said one bottler, who applauded the new strategy. "Pepsi wants commercials [now] that are relevant to the consumer."

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is completing work on new commercials for its flagship Coca-Cola Classic via Edge Creative, Los Angeles. Those spots continue the 6-year-old "Always" theme and will break later in 1999.

The soft-drink leader, never a big Super Bowl advertiser, is sitting out the game entirely.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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