Super Bowl

SodaStream Plots 'Edgy' Return to Super Bowl

Soda-Machine Marketer Buys Fourth Quarter Ad

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SodaStream is headed back to the Super Bowl, where it plans to take direct aim at Coke and Pepsi with a 30-second ad in the fourth quarter of the Feb. 2 game.

A scene from the SodaStream ad that did not run in the 2013 Super Bowl
A scene from the SodaStream ad that did not run in the 2013 Super Bowl

The marketer of home soda-making machines was forced to tone down its ad in this year's game after the company said CBS rejected the original spot, which showed exploding Coke and Pepsi bottles to dramatize the environmental pitch that SodaStream could have "saved 500 million bottles on game day alone."

The 2014 ad has not been submitted for approval because it is still in development. But "it will be edgy because that is who we are," said SodaStream International CEO Daniel Birnbaum. "You have to be edgy if you are challenging and disrupting a big category."

"I hope that [Fox] will be a little more courageous than CBS, because CBS's behavior was pathetic," he added. "CBS chickened out and they just didn't want to take a risk of pissing off Coke and Pepsi who are big, big sponsors of theirs."

CBS declined to comment on Friday. A Fox Sports spokesman said that "ads cannot be reviewed until submitted, and all ads submitted for review must meet Fox's standards for broadcast."

SodaStream received a wave of free publicity as a result of the 2013 rejected ad, which it distributed digitally. "We never intended to be banned, but the end result was we got about 5 million views on YouTube, which we didn't pay for," Mr. Birnbaum said.

SodaStream has not picked an agency for the 2014 ad. But Mr. Birnbaum said former CP&B exec Alex Bogusky, who worked on the 2013 ad, is on the company's short list. "I loved working with Alex and he really brings an edge," he said.

The company sought a fourth-quarter time slot because it wanted to follow any Coke and Pepsi ads, Mr. Birnbaum said. (PepsiCo is sponsoring halftime and is planning to air two 30-second beverage ads, while Coca-Cola has yet to confirm its Super Bowl plans.) Mr. Birnbaum said he expects his soda competitors to use their ads to talk "about happiness and love and all those beautiful attributes in life."

"Maybe it's time for these big companies to take responsibility for the health of America and confront the obesity issue in a more honest way and the environmental hazard of bottles," he said.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola declined to comment. Coca-Cola has been vocal about its goal to recover 50% of the bottles and cans it puts into the North American market by 2015. The majority of its packages are 100% recyclable.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been under attack for the role their products play in obesity, and both companies have been promoting their efforts to market and launch more zero and low-calorie products. Coca-Cola, in particular, has been aggressive in promoting a "calories in, calories out" message with the introduction of a number of ads around the world encouraging people to be more active.

SodaStream, which is based in Israel, promotes its flavors as having less sugar, calories, carbohydrates and sodium than traditional sodas. An 8-ounce serving of its classic cola flavor has 8 grams of sugar, according to the company's web site. A 12-ounce serving of Coke has 39 sugar grams, according to a Coca-Cola web site.

Two new SodaStream flavors
Two new SodaStream flavors

As SodaStream grows -- its machines are now available in more than 60,000 retail stores in 45 countries -- it has adopted mainstream marketing techniques, including partnering with big food companies such as Kraft Foods Group. Co-branded flavor versions include Kool-Aid, Country Time and Crystal Light. The company also recently announced a deal with Cooking Light magazine, whose logo will adorn two new flavors: Passionfruit-Mango and Kiwi-Pear.

Fox is expected to fetch roughly $4 million for 30 seconds in the Super Bowl. Mr. Birnbaum said that amount roughly equals what SodaStream typically pays for TV advertising over three months in the U.S. The Super Bowl investment is a "big decision" and "we don't take it lightly," he said. But it's "bigger than the money," he added. "It's a statement that we have arrived."

According to Kantar Media, SodaStream spent $15 million on measured media in 2012. In the first half of 2013 it spent $11 million, including $4.5 million on network TV during the first quarter.

Contributing: Natalie Zmuda, Jeanine Poggi

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