“We wanted to make sure it was cinematic in terms of the epicness and scale that only this kind of show deserves,” Pepsi Marketing VP Todd Kaplan said. As for the decision to forego a traditional in-game ad, he said: “This is our biggest brand asset in the game—the 12 minutes of the show itself—and we think we can create engaging and entertaining content for our fans for weeks, bring them closer to the experience, and still deliver our objective on game day of winning share of voice as the most talked about brand.”
The brand took a similar approach last year when it opted to run ads hyping the 2021 halftime show starring The Weeknd with ads running in playoff games, while skipping an in-game ad for the first time since 2017.
This year’s strategy centers on steering consumers to a special app Pepsi created to hype the show. The app, which was released Jan. 2, houses Pepsi content related to the show, including behind-the-scenes footage, as well as information on sweepstakes like the chance to win sideline passes to the show.
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Brands are under more pressure to use marketing tools such as apps to interact directly with potential consumers—including collecting data for remarketing purposes—as methods such as cookie-based web tracking become obsolete. Asked if that was one of the business goals for Pepsi’s app, Kaplan said: “That frankly isn’t a big objective of ours. It’s not about the full-on data capture—that is not it—it’s really about what is the most frictionless way to give fans the best, most immersive and best real-time access and experiences to the content and show they love.”
At present, the brand doesn’t seem to be collecting much data directly from the app; for instance, the app plugs merchandise giveaways by encouraging people to enter by following Pepsi on Twitter and using special hashtags, like #WinTheMerch.
The campaign comes as the long-term future of Pepsi’s halftime sponsorship remains in doubt. The soda has sponsored the show since 2012, but the current deal with the NFL expires after the 2022 game. CNBC in October reported that the league planned to take the sponsorship rights to the open market.
Asked about Pepsi’s interest in renewing its deal, Kaplan said, “We don’t comment on the specifics of any ongoing negotiations.” He added: “Right now our focus is entirely on bringing this year’s Super Bowl halftime show to life in ways we have never done before.”
PepsiCo has not detailed Super Bowl ad plans for its other beverages, which include Mtn Dew and Bubly. It’s Frito-Lay snack business will be represented by two ads: One for Lay’s and another one that spotlights Flamin’ Hot varieties of its Cheetos and Doritos brands.