Pepsi banks on Super Bowl halftime marketing, won’t run separate in-game ad
Pepsi-Cola will not run a standalone Super Bowl ad this year but will instead pour all of its money into the brand’s sponsorship of the halftime show featuring The Weeknd.
It marks the first time since 2017 that PepsiCo has opted out of an in-game spot for its flagship cola brand. But the marketer is still spending heavily on the game. It will dedicate a 30-second ad to Mtn Dew from TBWA\Chiat\Day New York that is expected to plug the soda’s new watermelon flavor, called Mtn Dew Major Melon. It is also possible the company could run ads for other beverage or snacks offerings.
The Super Bowl investment behind Pepsi-Cola is still significant. The brand will begin running TV ads starring The Weeknd during this weekend’s National League Playoff games that plug the halftime show. The spot, from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, shows everyday people singing the singer’s hit song “Blinding Lights,” as they go about their lives. The Weeknd appears at the end, before the text “Are You Ready?” and a plug for the show at the Feb. 7 game on CBS.
Pepsi is also dressing up more than 500 million cans and bottles in packaging that includes halftime show branding and a QR code that takes users to a special website where it promises to post “exclusive behind the scenes content form the making of the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show.” And the halftime show will surely carry plenty of on-screen Pepsi branding.
The move marks a departure from Pepsi’s normal practice of running an ad in addition to the halftime sponsorship. This is the 10th straight year the brand has sponsored the halftime show, and trademark Pepsi has run a separate ad in all of those years except for 2017, when PepsiCo dedicated a 30-second spot to its then-new Lifewtr premium bottled water brand. (In some years, Pepsi used its in-game ad time to hype the halftime show, like in 2014 and 2015.)
But this year, Pepsi is banking solely on the massive drawing power of the halftime show. Last year’s show starring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira drew an average of 103 million viewers on Fox, compared with the 99.9 million viewers for the game, according to a report last year from Deadline, citing Nielsen figures.
“We actually believe it’s the most valuable 12 minutes of marketing airtime out there in the world right now,” says Pepsi Marketing VP Todd Kaplan. “It’s really where sports and music come together and it really helps reinforce Pepsi’s pop culture music equity.”
Pepsi’s decision comes as brands re-evaluate their Super Bowl strategies amid COVID. Some longtime Super Bowl advertisers, including Coke, Hyundai and Kia, have yet to commit publicly to returning to the game. At least one regular advertiser, Avocados From Mexico, has opted out, ending a six-year run.
“The whole COVID environment has caused companies to reassess everything about their marketing and advertising spend,” says Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of beverage trade magazine Beverage Digest. Referring to Pepsi, he says, “I am not surprised that they would do something different than they have done in previous years.”
Pepsi’s investment in Super Bowl-branded packaging comes amid surging soda sales at stores during the pandemic as homebound consumers stock their refrigerators. Pepsi-Cola’s retail sales volume was up 7% in the first nine months of 2020, according to Beverage Digest.
Pepsi’s Super Bowl marketing includes point-of-sale displays at retailers including Kroger, 7-Eleven, Target and Dollar General.
The aggressive in-store push makes sense in the current environment, Stanford says: “People are just in general buying more soft drinks; even if they are not football fans, they are going to see that packaging.”