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Is Pepsi Too Good for the Super Bowl/ TV?

Is Pepsi Too Good for the Super Bowl/ TV?

The Associated Press

Pepsi will not advertise its drinks in the coming Super Bowl on CBS, ending a 23-year run so the company can focus on a new, mostly online, marketing effort.

Pepsi-brand beverages have been advertised in the Super Bowl since 1987. PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay unit still will advertise in the game.

Pepsi’s Super Bowl ads won enormous consumer affection through the years, and what were perhaps its glory years for game ads came in the 1990s. From 1994 though 1998, Pepsi aired the ad that was most liked by participants in USA TODAY’s exclusive Super Bowl Ad Meter, an annual real-time consumer testing of the game’s ads as they air.

But Pepsi’s run of USA TODAY Ad Meter victories was broken by Anheuser-Busch in 1999. Pepsi ads continue to score well in Ad Meter, and a Pepsi-brand ad finished in the top 10 in the last Super Bowl: a commercial mixing old and new images and the music of Bob Dylan and Will.i.am.

PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y., spent $33 million advertising its products — including Pepsi, Gatorade and Cheetos — during the last Super Bowl, according to TNS Media Intelligence. About $15 million of it, however, was for the Pepsi brand alone. Ad time for that 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 coming game, according to Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research for TNS. Final figures won’t be known until after the Feb. 7 game, which will air on CBS. The network said last week it has sold about 90% of the game’s commercial time.

Pepsi has been the second-biggest Super Bowl advertiser in the past decade. According to TNS, the company spent $143 million on the 10 Super Bowls from 1999 through 2008, second only to Anheuser-Busch, which spent $216 million. The brewer of Bud Light confirmed Thursday that it will have five minutes of advertising in the coming game.

Pepsi recognizes that 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.

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

Pepsi’s move leaves the Super Bowl soft-drink field open for Coca-Cola, which has been widely reported to be advertising in the game, though Coke declined to comment. The world’s biggest soft-drink maker was the eighth-highest spender on Super Bowl ads from 1999 through 2008, spending $30.5 million on two Super Bowls in 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.