PepsiCo executives were assailed for having let Diet Coke usurp their flagship brand to take second place, behind Coca-Cola, in U.S. soft drink sales in 2011. How they marketed — or, rather, didn't market — Pepsi was flagged by some observers as part of the problem.
Well, the company got the message. And among the many recent indicators of that — including Pepsi's major sponsorship of The X Factor, its endorsement relationship with Nicki Minaj, and the shaking up of its upper management under CEO Indra Nooyi — may be that, when Super Bowl XLVII reaches halftime on February 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Pepsi today confirmed reports that it's taking over as sponsor of the iconic halftime show.
"Pepsi's deep-rooted heritage with the Super Bowl and with music truly makes this relationship a natural fit," Adam Harter, PepsiCo Beverages' VP of consumer engagement, said in a press release. "As the most-watched and highly anticipated entertainment event of the year, the Super Bowl Halftime Show is right at the heart of sports and music."
Harter commented "to AP that the NFL is letting Pepsi have more input than past sponsors have had — including on stage design and which musicians perform during the show. He declined to give details, but said Pepsi will also partner with the league in how the halftime show can be viewed online. Pepsi will also use the sponsorship for promotions on the soda cans and bottles its sells in stores."
"I think you'll see more activation around sports and music together as the year unfolds,'' he told AP.
The deal follows PepsiCo's NFL sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Steelers that was announced Monday. Now, the brand is positioning the Super Bowl halftime deal as an extension of its new "Live for Now" campaign, noting that there's no bigger event in the world on Super Bowl Sunday than, well, the Super Bowl. PepsiCo also believes that it can create a "deeper and more unique level of engagement" around its show sponsorship than previous sponsors; Bridgestone Tire sponsored the halftime show in recent years and created the opening for Pepsi by dropping out for 2013.
Pepsi's halftime-related campaign also will include in-store activations, digital engagement and "televised and in-person interaction with fans," the company said. And of course PepsiCo, including Frito-Lay's Doritos-sponsored Crash the Super Bowl crowdsourced commercial contest, will once again pepper the game day broadcast with ads.
Two years ago, Pepsi sat out the Big Game as it reallocated its budget to the digital, social crowdsourced Pepsi Refresh corporate citizenship platform instead. Now marketing of the Pepsi brand is ascendant again, moving back to a focus of PepsiCo as it has been traditionally, and employing tried-and-true methods such as the Super Bowl halftime show — presumably resulting in a further de-emphasis of the Pepsi Refresh project.
Will all of this mean that more Americans drink more Pepsi than Diet Coke anytime soon and for a while? That's Pepsi's hope — and its new bet.