By Barry Janoff
February 15, 2016: When it comes to the Super Bowl, the second-biggest company in play behind the NFL might arguably be PepsiCo, which has been aligned with the league for more than three decades.
During Super Bowl 50, Doritos, a division of PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, had its final "Crash the Super Bowl," with a consumer-generated campaign that saw Jacob Chase's winning commercial, "Doritos Dogs," air during the game, and earn him $1 million and the opportunity to work with director Zach Snyder (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
The company's sports drink brand, Gatorade, is endorsed by, among others, the starting quarterbacks for both Super Bowl 50 teams: Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos).
Mtn. Dew created "PuppyMonkeyBaby," which since being released on Feb. 3 has had some 21 million views on YouTube, and made most post-games list as one of the most talked-about Super Bowl commercials.
Pepsi, which just concluded in its 14th consecutive year as the official soft drink partner of the NFL (as well as 16 teams) — including such platforms as the NFL Rookie of the Year — is even more ubiquitous.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2015 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year at an awards ceremony during a pre-Super Bowl "Pepsi Friday Night Live" event on Pier 70 in San Francisco.
The brand's Super Bowl landscape featured commercials — "Joy of Pepsi" with Janelle Monáe, a series of "Camp Halftime" spots — presence as the official sponsor of the Halftime show, a sweepstakes offering game tickets, Super Bowl-specific products and within Super Bowl host venue Levi's Stadium via the Pepsi Fan Deck.
Numerous on-the-ground activations included Kola House at Pier 70, an experiential lounge and event space scheduled to launch a flagship location in New York City's Meatpacking District this spring; three nights of entertainment, in conjunction with DirecTV, on Pier 70; and an interactive footprint in the NFL Experience, Fizz, described as an "elevated and immersive . . . futuristic soda shop concept" that allowed people to combine "unique and unexpected flavors and ingredients to create" new beverages.
Super Bowl 50 was Pepsi's third consecutive run as halftime sponsor and fourth overall (Super Bowl XLI), with the current contract running through Super Bowl LI in Houston.
The Purchase-NY-based company's presence in sports and entertainment goes beyond the NFL.
PepsiCo has been partnered with the NHL since 2006.
In 2014, PepsiCo extended its sponsorship with MLB, with brands including Pepsi, Gatorade, Aquafina, Frito-Lay Seeds, Cracker Jack and Lay's as official MLB category sponsors.
PepsiCo also currently sponsors more than half of MLB teams and has endorsement deals with more than a dozen MLB athletes who are part of the company's roster of some 50 athletes across various sports.
In 2015, it signed a multi-year deal to become an official partner with the NBA, bumping Coca-Cola after 28 years, as well as the WNBA and D-League. With that deal, Mtn. Dew replaced Sprite as the official carbonated drink, with sibling Gatorade already a league brand. A Dew spot featuring Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler and Julius Randal, "Make An Introduction," broke during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Pepsi also has naming rights to the Pepsi Center in Denver, home for the NBA's Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche.
In concert, PepsiCo has official alliances with, among others, Live Nation, South by Southwest (March 11-20) and the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam (Panama City, Fla.); and naming rights for the PepsiCo Recital Hall (Ft. Worth, Texas).
NYSportsJournalism spoke with Todd Kaplan, PepsiCo’s senior director of marketing, about the company's Super Bowl 50 experience and how it would use the knowledge in with MLB during the 2016 season, Super Bowl LI next February and upcoming music platforms.
NYSportsJournalism.com: PepsiCo has a number of brands that already are well-known around the world. When you are working with the NFL or MLB, what are the goals in marketing and activations?
Todd Kaplan: When you think about how passionate NFL fans are about football and MLB fans are about baseball, we want to connect with consumers and add value to their fan experience. Our categories of soda and snacks are very ubiquitous with the football- and baseball-watching experience, so we want to enhance those occasions and bring them to life.
NYSJ: What have you learned from Super Bowl activations that you can take to MLB and elsewhere regarding the challenge of getting Pepsi's message out to consumers but making it unique enough so that it stands apart from the tremendous amount of marketing people see?
TK: The challenge at the Super Bowl is that there are always so many messages and so much marketing coming out at the same time. In my experience, the power of a good idea is a good idea. No matter if it's at the Super Bowl or by itself. The stronger ideas cut through the clutter and resonate with consumers. Consumers, at the end of the day, are the ultimate judges. There are some fun and exciting platforms we had during Super Bowl 50 that we will move forward with. It's been awesome. We do this for the consumers. It validates what we are doing when you see people walking around talking about it and enjoying it.
NYSJ: When will you begin to formulate creative for Super Bowl LI?
TK: It's never too early to start planning. But I'd say the day after a Super Bowl is when we begin to formulate plans for the next Super Bowl. PepsiCo is a big NFL partner, and we have been for years. The Super Bowl is a big piece of how we go to market. There is a lot of planning across all our brands and all the pieces of the organization that need to get into place. We are constantly looking at ways to activate around the NFL and the Super Bowl and always looking for new and unique ways to reach consumers.
NYSJ: How are you taking the platforms you activated during Super Bowl 50 and moving forward with them to MLB, entertainment venues and, looking ahead, Super Bowl LI next year in Minneapolis?
TK: We are experimenting with the whole concept, trying new ideas. We are looking at the numbers to see how and what we can move forward with. Sports and music venues are great places to bring to life our products with consumers. We are looking for more personal contact with people.
NYSJ: Was there more planning for Super Bowl 50 because of the historic importance of the game?
TK: We are always looking to raise the bar year-over-year. The Super Bowl gets more buzz, more viewers, more social media attention and involvement. Coming into Super Bowl 50, we knew we had to have our A-Game. But that is true for all of our activations. We always want to bring out best.
NYSJ: How important has it been for Pepsi to have its name on the Super Bowl Halftime Show and what have been the challenges to make it more unique every year?
TK: It has been important. You get people watching the Halftime Show who may not be watching the game, or may come for the show and watch the second half. We work with the NFL. It's a big and important planning process. It has our name front and center. But, obviously, it's one of many things we doing during the Super Bowl.
NYSJ: What was the response to your Super Bowl 50 activations?
TK: We had an exclusive preview of Kola House (pictured), an experiential lounge and event space, which we will launch flagship space in New York's Meatpacking District this spring. If Willy Wonka created a soda shop, it would be Kola House. And we had a Fizz interactive footprint at the NFL Experience. Fizz is a futuristic soda shop concept with a touch-screen that allows consumers to combine unique and unexpected flavors and ingredients to create their own custom Pepsi flavors. We want people to experience the soda category in a new and different way. We have a number of in-stadium experiences. In Levi's Stadium, for example, with the Pepsi Fan Deck, which we launched when the stadium opened in 2014.
NYSJ: What's next in sports and entertainment?
TK: Pepsi is a brand where sports and music come together so we have a range of properties, from the big sports leagues to a range of music properties. Every event has opportunities, and challenges, ways for us to connect with consumers. So every week there is something going on. And we are constantly looking for new ways to bring great experiences to consumers.
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