Pepsi takes a pass on Super Bowl ads

By Ben Rooney, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Pepsi will not advertise in next year's Super Bowl, the company confirmed Thursday, deciding to sit out the big game for the first time in 23 years.

"The Super Bowl broadcast can be an amazing stage for advertisers if it aligns with their brand strategy," said Frank Cooper, a senior vice president at Pepsico Americas Beverages. "However, brands should not blindly anchor themselves to history."

The move is a significant shift in strategy for the beverage giant, which has aired commercials in every Super Bowl since 1987. Last year, Pepsico was one of the top four advertisers during the game, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Frito Lay, the company's snack food unit, will still advertise during Super Bowl XLIV, which will be broadcast Feb. 7 on CBS.

The National Football League championship is the premiere advertising event of the year, with 30-second spots averaging about $3 million last year.

However, the weak economy has crimped advertising budgets for many companies that regularly advertise in the Super Bowl. Sales have hovered in the range of $2.5 and $3 million per spot this year.

Still, CBS said in November that it had sold about 90% of its advertising spots during the game.

Networks typically sell 62 commercials of 30 seconds each for the game. For last season's big match, NBC didn't reach the 90% benchmark for sales until January, just a month ahead of the telecast.

The decision to forego the 44th Super Bowl comes as Pepsi prepares to launch a new cause-oriented marketing campaign early next year.

The new campaign, called the "Pepsi Refresh Project," is a long term, multi-million-dollar grant program, the company said. Under the program, Pepsi (PEP, Fortune 500) will grant money to charitable causes proposed and selected by consumers.

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

Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising, said the decision to not advertise in the Super Bowl was strategically important, but expressed doubts about Pepsi's new campaign.

"It appears to be punt to political correctness," said McKee, who runs Adbowl, a Web site that polls opinions of Super Bowl ads. While the decision could generate some buzz for Pepsi in the near term, "I don't know if it's going to grow their market share," he said.  To top of page

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