Can football heroes do for Quaker Oats what rocket men couldn't? PepsiCo has added its Quaker and Tropicana brands to the stable of products covered by its big partnership with the National Football League, and for Quaker, which is partnering with the kid-oriented NFL Play 60, the tie-in couldn't have come too soon.
PepsiCo is kicking off the new NFL season, the first of its new 10-year deal with the league which includes a return to Super Bowl advertising, by deploying more NFL-themed displays than ever before and by highlighting its traditional blue-can Pepsi more than ever. The $2.3-billion deal, one of the largest sponsorships in U.S. sports history, involves the new brands as well as the original Pepsi, Gatorade and Frito-Lay brands.
In PepsiCo's biggest "Power of One" campaign yet, an effort to tie its snack and beverage brands together globally, the company is rolling out about 23,000 retail displays ahead of Wednesday night's kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants — a 30-percent increase over a year ago.
"It's a huge passion point," Jennifer Storms, PepsiCo's SVP of global sports marketing, told Ad Age about consumers' feelings about marketing associations with NFL teams and players, and the halo effect the sport has on fans. "Consumers want NFL. We're making sure we're relevant and relating to them; that's what drives them to purchase."
It's obvious how products such as Pepsi soft drinks, Frito-Lay salty snacks and even Gatorade sports drinks relate to in-game snacking and parties, and after-game workouts to burn off in-game calorie consumption. Less clear is what associations there might be between NFL-watching activity and Quaker and Tropicana.
But Quaker executives have to be willing to give anything a try these days. Their brand unfortunately stands out as the poorest performer among PepsiCo's major marques over the last few years; it was the only Pepsi division that didn't grow last year.
That was despite the seemingly bright prospects for an ingredient, oats, that has such a healthy patina at a time of huge growth in better-for-you foods, and also despite several years of corporate efforts to jump-start the brand with new products and new marketing campaigns — notably, for instance, commuters flying rocket packs made out of Quaker Oats cans in the forgettable "Go humans go" campaign that launched in 2009.
Now there are some early signs of improvement for Quaker under new CMO Justin Lambeth and with still more attention from corporate. For the first time, for example, Quaker is selling the obvious: oatmeal cookies. And its Real Medleys premium oatmeals, with fruits and other mix-ins, are trying to give McDonald's, Starbucks and other fast food brands some competition for the chains' popular morning oatmeal offerings.
Is Quaker ready for some football? We know Larry, its slimmed down mascot, is ready to suit up — he even bears a slight resemblance to the old New England Patriots logo.