Published on diciembre 18th, 2009 | by GAby Menta0
Pepsi to Buck the Bowl.
Word came this morning via the Associated Press that PepsiCo will sit on the sidelines during Super Bowl XLIV, for the first time in 23 years. During that time the company has been known for its big-budget commercials featuring big-ticket music stars from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to Britney Spears and Will.i.am.
(I hereby confess a lingering fondness for watching the 2008 Justin Timberlake get racked, smacked and sacked by various forms of Pepsi Stuff. That guy can take a flat screen to the forehead like nobody’s business.)
But this year Pepsi is foregoing the big game in favor of a community-based campaign, “Pepsi Refresh Project,” that will launch in January. Instead of paying out millions for seconds of air time, the company will put its resources into social programs proposed by its consumers.
It’s a very interesting concept and a pretty bold opt-out from the mainstream. The company is willing to trade off being part of the Monday morning water-cooler chat and those post-game Ad Bowl analyses for some off-air social buzz and a more lasting, meaningful relationship with its audience than simply making them laugh or gasp.
We’ll have to watch as the Refresh Project develops, but it looks as if Pepsi is applying to its main brand many of the social lessons it’s learned from campaigns for secondary brands such as Mountain Dew, which started out letting people design flavors and most recently has given its fans control over a marketing campaign.
Last year’s Super Bowl effort came after the company rolled out its “Refresh Everything” tagline. But while the commercial featuring the MacGruber character from Saturday Night Live was good for some laughs, it definitely felt poorly tacked on to the message of renewal that PepsiCo was putting into its print, online and outdoor ads.
And the company has a more interesting social story to tell. Under the “Refresh Everything” banner, it’s been notably involved in promoting community causes, from the City Year service group to the Games That Give charity.
Other brands are passing up the Super Bowl as not cost-effective. For the second year in a row, FedEx-which runs a large and long-standing sponsorship with the National Football League during the regular season–will be a no-show during the climactic game, due to “cost containment”, a press report stated.
Pepsi, too, has a tie-in with the NFL. But Pepsi’s the only brand taking the money that would have been spent on Super Bowl TV spots and re-purposing it to other marketing in the same big-game time frame. Look for press coverage about the money they’re not spending to show up among the talking frogs/ noble Clydesdales/ office chimps. The brand may stand to get a big helping of credit from their budget-minded customers, for whom this has been one hellacious financial year.
Of course the Pepsi subsidiary Frito-Lay will still be a fixture of the game with the latest version of its Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” user-generated ad contest. Interestingly, this year’s contest makes the size of the cash awards for the winning commercials dependent on how those spots place in the game’s ad rankings.
In a year like this, that emphasis on TV spots—even UGC ones—almost has a ring of the same old familiar. Now we just need the NFL to ban the GoDaddy ads, and we’re ready for kickoff.