PepsiCo Debuts 'Bubly' Brand at Oscars in Chase for More Water Sales

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Credit: PepsiCo

PepsiCo is bringing Bubly to the Oscars—not Champagne, but a new sparkling water brand. The beverage giant announced the new offering on Thursday, calling it "one of our biggest product launches" and backing it with two 30-second slots during ABC's March 4 broadcast of the Academy Awards.

Bubly will be endorsed by actor Neil Patrick Harris, as reported earlier by industry trade publication Beverage-Digest, although it is not clear whether he will appear in the Oscars advertising. The same ad will air twice during the Oscars, but a PepsiCo spokeswoman declined to elaborate on creative details. The agency behind the work is R/GA.

ABC has already sold 98 percent of the commercial time in the Oscars, with marketers plotting approaches that promote female empowerment amid the "me-too" movement, Rita Ferro, president of sales at Disney-ABC TV Group, recently told Ad Age.

PepsiCo appears poised to take a light-hearted approach with Bubly as it seeks to capitalize on surging growth in the sparkling water category, growth that's been led so far by brands such as LaCroix and Nestle's Perrier. Private label brands also control a large share of the category, according to Beverage-Digest.

Bubly is packaged in bright colors with cans featuring whimsical messages etched on the pull-tab, such as "Hey u," "hiii," and "yo." Other text on the cans include sayings such as "I feel like I can be open around u," "hold cans with me," and "love at first phssst." The brand extended the lighthearted approach to the flavor names, which include Limebubly, Grapefruitbubly, Strawberrybubly, Lemonbubly, Orangebubly, Applebubly, Mangobubly and Cherrybubly (entirely lower-cased on the packaging for that accessible feel).

PepsiCo had previously experimented in the category with sparkling water line extension of its existing water brands, such as Aquafina. The new brand launch, and the significant marketing investment behind it, signals the marketer is in the category for the long haul.

"When we looked at the sparkling water category, we saw an opportunity to innovate from within by building a new brand and product from the ground up to meet consumer needs," said Todd Kaplan, VP of the water portfolio at PepsiCo North America Beverages, said in a statement. "We created Bubly to provide consumers with a great-tasting, flavorful, unsweetened sparkling water in a fun, playful, and relevant manner that is unlike anything we've seen in the sparkling water category today."

The introduction marks the latest attempt by a big beverage marketer to diversity its offerings amid the steady decline of the soda category. Bubly comes a year after PepsiCo used the Super Bowl to launch a new non-sparking, premium purified water brand called Lifetwr. Sparkling water is growing by a double-digit percentage and "competition is heating up," Beverage-Digest reported today.

Bubly's Oscars ad buy and celebrity endorsement is at odds with the approach taken by LaCroix. The brand, distributed by National Beverage, has shunned traditional mass media advertising, Beverage-Digest notes. The publication credited LaCroix's "meaningful social media following" and "aggressive retail marketing" for helping the brand grow 2016 volume in by 63 percent.

Below, a promotional video PepsiCo debuted today for Bubly.

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