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Pepsi Kicks Off Crucial Marketing Season with The X Factor Finale, Super Bowl

Posted by Dale Buss on December 23, 2011 10:31 AM

Last night was a big one for the Pepsi brand, in the midst of an attempted comeback from its relegation to the No. 3 spot in U.S. carbonated-soft-drink sales behind Coke and Diet Coke. February 5 will be another big day.

The X Factor announced its first U.S. winner, Melanie Amaro. Pepsi has been the primary sponsor of the first season of the Fox singing talent show created by Simon Cowell. Week by week, the brand has stepped up its marketing involvement in and identification with the show. Now Amaro, as winner, gets a Pepsi TV commercial in addition to a $5-million recording contract from the show.

And that ad is scheduled to debut on one the biggest branding platforms on the planet: Super Bowl Sunday. Which is the other story: Pepsi is returning to the Big Game on NBC on February 5 after a one-year absence.

Pepsi announced this week that it would be airing one more brand spot during Super Bowl XLVI in addition to the X Factor ad.

Pepsi's previously announced return to Super Bowl advertising seems to rank as a huge admission by PepsiCo that its strategy for promoting the brand over the past two years was a failure. While its Doritos brand was prominent during Super Bowl XLV as every year, the company pointedly avoided advertising Pepsi during the Super Bowl last February for the first time since its involvement began with the game in 1987. Instead, Pepsi funneled $20 million — about what it could have spent on Super Bowl advertising — into its Pepsi Refresh social-media project.

While Pepsi Refresh has gained Pepsi a lot of social-media buzz, the community-building initiative didn't do much for sales, as Pepsi slid to third place. The resulting investor heat on PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi presumably helped to persuade her brain trust to re-invest in some traditional as well as new-era methods of creating sales for Pepsi, which led to the X Factor sponsorship — and now to a re-entry into the Super Bowl.

What difference will either or both make in Pepsi sales and market share? Those numbers will be among the most closely watched in American business in 2012.

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