The Player: Nice-guy Rodkin looks for first-place finish at Pepsi

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Innovation, promotions and a half-billion dollar marketing budget are the not-so-secret formula for the man who one day could lead PepsiCo.

Named president-CEO of PepsiCo Beverages & Foods North America in June, Gary Rodkin oversees the $10 billion combination of Pepsi-Cola Co., Gatorade, Tropicana, and Quaker Foods in the U.S. and Canada. A veteran of General Mills and Tropicana, he had been president-CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America since 1999. During that time, the company launched more than 12 new products, changed graphics for Diet Pepsi, snagged a slew of celebrity endorsements, inked a new partnership with the National Football League and renewed another with Major League Baseball.

Mr. Rodkin's helped Pepsi take a leadership role among non-alcoholic beverages such as juices, water, coffee, sports drinks, teas and alternative beverages. Marketing is keeping pace-while others retrench, Pepsi is increasing media spending. As part of a plan for bigger promotions, it is trying to fashion a deal that would send a consumer into space through a Pepsi promotion (AA, Sept. 16).

Observers bet Mr. Rodkin is the man to increase growth of non-carbonated drinks, big colas and the rest of the carbonated soft drink family while managing corporate expansion and integrating acquisitions (including Quaker Oats Co. and Sobe).

While PepsiCo respects him enough to entrust him with $563 million, or 88% of its U.S. measured media (according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR), that same loyalty carries over to his reports.

"He inspires through a faith and giving his people a sense of `you can do it, and you can do it better than you think you can do it' ... but he provides a focus on those initiatives that are the most important to the organization to be successful," said Dawn Hudson, president, Pepsi-Cola North America.

potential

PepsiCo is an organization he eventually could lead, agree Ms. Hudson and others. Not bad for a McDonald's bun dresser who never worked his way up to the grill.

A sports trivia expert, Mr. Rodkin's job allows him to indulge his passion through Pepsi's willingness to pony up for pricey sports rights-and anything else it believes will give it an edge. He was a bulldog in developing Sierra Mist, Pepsi's newest lemon-lime offering that it plans to expand nationally next year. He is not looking at esoteric ads to help him.

"If you can't explain the idea of a commercial in ten seconds, it's not going to be a good commercial," Mr. Rodkin said.

Mr. Rodkin, married since 1979 with a son and daughter, is regarded as an all-around good guy. Even his Coca-Cola floor mat-a must-have in Purchase-is to the side of his office threshold so people don't actually tread on it.

"He's all about the business and the bottom line and doing it in a moral and ethical way," said C.J. Fraleigh, who was VP-colas at Pepsi-Cola North America before joining General Motors Corp. as executive director-advertising and marketing last year. "Nice guys do finish first."

Fast Facts

Name: Gary Rodkin

Age: 50

Now: President-CEO of PepsiCo Beverages and Foods North America

Challenge: Develop brands that add volume but don't cannibalize the portfolio.

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