PepsiCo will not be running adds during Super Bowl XLIV this year, as it embarks on a new cause-related marketing program, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The decision is a big shift from last year when Pepsi was the biggest advertiser during the broadcast of the Super Bowl, which it has long made the centerpiece of its marketing strategy.
“In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event,” Frank Cooper, senior vice president of PepsiCo Americas Beverages told the Wall Street Journal. Doritos, a PepsiCo snack brand, will still advertise during the game broadcast.
The decision leaves Coca-Cola to dominate soft drink advertising during games. It plans to run a Super Bowl ad featuring the Simpsons. Coca-Cola returned to Super Bowl advertising in 2007, after an eight-year hiatus.
Instead of Super Bowl ads, PepsiCo is entering cause-related marketing in coming weeks with a campaign to kick off “Pepsi Refresh Project.” Under the program, Pepsi will award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers, such as helping high-school students publish books to develop their writing skills. Pepsi plans to spend $20 million of its ad dollars for the grants next year.
PepsiCo is hoping the new campaign will boost sales of some of its top North American beverage brands after its volume decline 7.3% from a year earlier in the first nine months of 2009, steeper than the 2.3% drop in volume for the soft-drink industry overall, Beverage Digest reported. Coke’s volume was down 6.6% over the same period.
Pepsi also noted it would spend 60% more on online ads in 2010 than it did in 2009, relying on Web ads and public relations to reach the younger generation.
“You can’t just go to market with a TV ad anymore,” said Lee Clow, chief creative officer of Omnicom Group’s TBWA Worldwide, the agency behind the new campaign.
Pepsi’s break from the big game does carry a risk, according to branding experts, because consumers have come to expect entertaining ads from the company.