PEPSICO BACKS 'STAR WARS' WITH COSMIC PROMO BLITZ: SOFT DRINKS, SNACK FOODS, RESTAURANTS JOIN IN EFFORT

By Published on .

Most Popular
With the theatrical re-release of the "Star Wars" trilogy less than a month away, PepsiCo is putting the finishing touches on its most ambitious promotion blitz ever.

With great secrecy, PepsiCo has put together separate "Star Wars" promotions and ad campaigns for its Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Doritos, Cheetos and Lay's brands.

The company has committed a staggering $2 billion globally to promote the trilogy and a new "Star Wars" film due in 1999 from Lucasfilm Ltd.

SYNERGY OR CONFUSION?

Although PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico has talked of the synergy the related efforts will generate, some franchisees and bottlers are wondering if competition and confusion won't be the actual result.

"Star Wars" ads for Pepsi and Doritos, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, and for Taco Bell, from Bozell, Costa Mesa, Calif., are nearly ready. At least in the Pepsi ad's case, which will air globally, one or more "Star Wars" characters will likely play a starring role.

The Pepsi and Doritos ads both have a chance to appear in PepsiCo's annual commercial barrage on the Super Bowl, five days before the trilogy's opening.

An avalanche of point-of-purchase materials and "Star Wars" packaging will descend on the nation's grocery and convenience store shelves. Specially designed Pepsi cans will be sold from coolers designed to look like R2-D2, a popular "droid" from the films.

The soft drink's primary consumer offer will enable shoppers to buy special trilogy posters with a combination of cash and proofs-of-purchase.

"It's going to be big," said one Pepsi bottler. "We know Pepsi paid a premium for the rights, since everybody else, including Coke, tried to get them."

FRITO-LAY'S PLANS

Frito-Lay will have an on-pack game and consumer offers in the snacks aisle, including trading cards, stickers, tattoos and figurines. The restaurants will offer separate sets of "Star Wars" packaging and merchandise. Pizza Hut, for example, will offer a kids poster in the U.S. and various sets of games and collectibles internationally.

Taco Bell will have an in-store game, dubbed "Field of Force," with prizes.

GLOBAL RE-RELEASE OF TRILOGY

Throughout 1997, the trilogy-a hit around the globe the first time around-will be re-released in more than 25 countries. In each place, Pepsi will tie in using the brands and promotions that make sense for that country. For example, KFC will take Taco Bell's place in many foreign markets.

The use of separate and distinct promotions by division comes as a bit of a surprise, given Mr. Enrico's talk of synergy. But PepsiCo's divisions always have operated separately, and Lucasfilm is making sure the movies remain at the center of all marketing messages.

Lucasfilm executives have absolute veto power over virtually every piece of the puzzle. Having trekked for approvals to Lucasfilm's San Rafael, Calif., headquarters, PepsiCo's divisions and its agencies have discovered that working in the rarefied air of Luke Skywalker really is a high-wire act.

With more than $3 billion in licensing sales since "Star Wars" premiered in 1977, the trilogy is the emperor of movie marketing. Determined to protect the "magic," as one observer called it, Lucasfilm has put restrictions on Pepsi that are unheard of in today's world of Hollywood hyper-hype.

MARKETING CHALLENGE

The basic challenge: promote the films heavily without letting it look too much like marketing. And nothing can be done that might sully or alter the imagery or characters of the films.

"You cannot put brands into the movies, nor can you bring 'Star Wars' into the brands' world," said a creative director at one of PepsiCo's agencies. "You can't have Yoda using a branded product."

In this article: