When it comes to marketing, there are two ways to win the Super Bowl.
One way is to create the best marketing campaign: A campaign that is grounded in consumer insight and inspired by creativity. A campaign that leverages the power of public relations to create buzz , excitement and drama.
The other way to win is to simply block out your competitors. If you are the only advertiser in your category, you are by definition the winner. If only one football team shows up for the Super Bowl, they will walk away the champion. Similarly, if only one advertiser in a category shows up, they walk away the winner.
For 2009, Pepsi is apparently taking the second approach; this week Pepsi announced that it had signed a deal making it the only non-alcoholic beverage advertiser in the first half of the Super Bowl, traditionally the most valuable time period. Pepsi didn’t reveal the cost, but we can safely assume the deal was not free.
Why did Pepsi take such a step? I suspect the move reflects the fact that Pepsi has been losing out to Coke on the Super Bowl. While Pepsi has long been one of the core Super Bowl advertisers, the company has struggled in recent games, airing some uninspired creative. Coke, however, has been building momentum.
Last year’s game clearly showed the shift in fortunes. Coke was one of the top advertisers in the 2008 Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review. Coke aired two terrific spots, one featuring inflatable balloons fighting over a Coke and another featuring two politicians (James Carville and Bill Frist) coming together over a Coke. The spots were product-focused and entertaining, with terrific linkage between the spot and the brand.
Pepsi, however, struggled in 2008. Pepsi’s Gatorade, for example, aired one of the most astonishing Super Bowl spots ever; the spot featured a dog slurping some liquid, presumably Gatorade. The spot made absolutely no sense.
To avoid another loss to Coke, Pepsi is spending money to block out the competition. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it does indicate a loss of confidence; if you have the best team you don’t have to keep your competitors off the field.
– Tim Calkins