Pepsi turns ad focus online

Updated: December 17, 2009, 9:35 PM ET
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE -- Pepsi's Super Bowl streak is over after a 23-year run.

Ads for the drinks won't appear in next year's Super Bowl on CBS. Instead, the company plans to shift ad dollars to a new marketing effort that's mostly online.

Pepsi was one of the biggest advertisers in this year's game and has advertised every year since 1987. Frito-Lay, a unit of parent company PepsiCo Inc., will still have Super Bowl commercials in the 2010 game.

The company, which is based in Purchase, N.Y., spent $33 million advertising products like Pepsi, Gatorade, and Cheetos during the 2009 Super Bowl, according to TNS Media Intelligence, $15 million of it on Pepsi alone. Ad time for the NFL championship game cost about $3 million for 30 seconds, on average.

Those prices may have dipped to as low as $2.5 million per 30 seconds for the 2010 game, according to Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research for TNS Media Intelligence. Final figures won't be known until after the game, which takes place Feb. 7 and airs on CBS. The network said last week it has sold about 90 percent of the game's commercial time.

Shipper FedEx also said Thursday it will not advertise again in the Super Bowl due to costs, the same reason the company gave for sitting it out last time around.

Pepsi had been a major advertiser during the Super Bowl. According to TNS, the company spent $142.8 million on the 10 Super Bowl ads from 1999 to 2008, second only to Anheuser-Busch, which spent $216 million. The brewer of Bud Light confirmed Thursday it will have 5 minutes worth of advertising in the 2010 Super Bowl.

Pepsi recognizes Super Bowl ads can be effective for marketing, spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said, but the game doesn't work with the company's goals next year.

"In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event and more about a movement," she said.

Notable Super Bowl ads from Pepsi over the years have included celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears and Will.i.am.

The nation's second-biggest soft drink maker is plowing marketing dollars into its "Pepsi Refresh Project" starting next month as its main vehicle for Pepsi. The project will pay at least $20 million for projects people create to "refresh" communities.

A Web site will go live Jan. 13 where people can list their projects, which could range from helping to feed people to teaching children to read. People can vote starting Feb. 1 to determine which projects receive money.

Pepsi estimates the effort will fund thousands of projects and says other businesses will pledge money, too.

The company does plan to hold events related to its new effort at the Super Bowl.

Pepsi's move leaves the Super Bowl soft-drink field open for rival Coca-Cola Co., which has been widely reported to be advertising this year, though Coca-Cola declined to comment. The world's biggest soft drink maker was the eighth-highest spender on Super Bowl ads from 1999 to 2008. It spent $30.5 million on two Super Bowls within that decade.

Most advertisers on the Super Bowl do not have as long a history as Pepsi, Swallen said, averaging three to four years in a row before dropping out. They will often cycle back in, though, because it is a rare chance to reach such a wide audience. The 2009 matchup between Arizona and Pittsburgh attracted 95.4 million people.

"It is arguably the one TV programming event of the year where people tune in as much for the commercials as they do for the game that's being played on the field," he said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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