Super Bowl

PepsiCo's Super Bowl Plans Are Decidedly Zero-Calorie

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Lifewtr's Super Bowl LI ad
Lifewtr's Super Bowl LI ad Credit: PepsiCo

PepsiCo is planning a sugar-free Super Bowl. The beverage giant announced today that it will run a 30-second ad for its new Lifewtr premium bottled water brand.

The spot, called "Inspiration Drops," will feature a version of John Legend's song "Love Me Now" that has been "tailored to reflect the advertisement's art direction and bring its imagery to life," PepsiCo stated. Mr. Legend does not appear in the ad. The agency on the ad is Hustle, Chicago which is part of R/GA.

As previously announced, PepsiCo is using its halftime show sponsorship to plug its Pepsi Zero Sugar variety. Lady Gaga is the main attraction. Tony Bennett will appear first in a pre-produced segment.

Tony Bennett on set for the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show countdown, at Chelsea Piers Sports Center on Jan. 18 in New York City.
Tony Bennett on set for the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show countdown, at Chelsea Piers Sports Center on Jan. 18 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images via PepsiCo

This is the fifth straight year of PepsiCo's halftime sponsorship. But 2017 marks the first time in that period that the marketer has not emphasized its flagship full-calorie Pepsi variety in an ad or halftime sponsorship.

The decision comes as the soda industry continues to be targeted by health advocates.

"We're particularly proud to promote two zero-calorie products – Lifewtr and Pepsi Zero Sugar – during such a high-profile event as we continue to transform our product lineup to offer beverage choices for every consumer lifestyle and occasion," Seth Kaufman, chief marketing officer for PepsiCo North America Beverages, said in a statement.

Commenting on PepsiCo's Super Bowl plans, Beverage Digest Executive Editor Duane Stanford stated in an email that "PepsiCo needs to catch up on the premium bottled water trend and there are few better ways to get attention fast than with this country's most-watched sporting event. While full-calorie drinks like Pepsi-Cola are profitable and important to the bottom line, they are losing yardage to a host of new beverages capturing the attention of a growing number of consumers from adventurous millennials to health-conscious boomers."

PepsiCo announced Lifewtr in December. It is promoted as "pH balanced with electrolytes added for taste." Labels feature rotating designs created by emerging artists. The brand will be playing catch-up to Coca-Cola's Smartwater, which controls 45% of the U.S. premium bottled water market by volume, according to estimates provided late last year by Beverage Digest.

Lifewtr Bottles
Lifewtr Bottles Credit: PepsiCo

The Lifewtr Super Bowl spot --which will air during the first half -- was directed by Robert Stromberg. The ad shows a how a "city is transformed by a storm that turns everything the rain touches into the bright, colorful art" of artists who are making the first series of labels for the brand, according to a press release. PepsiCo today released the following teaser:

Pepsi Zero Sugar was formerly called Pepsi Max. It was rebranded last year as part of a broader overhaul of Pepsi's diet lineup. The changes also included bringing back the aspartame-sweetened version of Diet Pepsi amid complaints from some loyalists over PepsiCo's decision to reformulate it without aspartame. The resurrected original version of Diet Pepsi is marketed as "Classic Sweetener Blend," while the aspartame-free version is sold as the marketer's flagship diet cola.

Most diet soda brands have struggled of late, but Diet Pepsi has been in a particularly bad slump. Dollar sales plummeted 10% last year, according to Wells Fargo.

Regular Pepsi has been featured during the season in NFL-themed TV ads as part of a campaign called "#BreakOutThePepsi" that has featured NFL players Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Stephen Gostkowski. Regular Pepsi has also been shown in a digital video series called "Zone Reads" that has also included NFL stars.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Tony Bennett would perform live before Lady Gaga. He will appear in a pre-recorded segment.

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