Pepsi abandons Super Bowl in favor of CRM

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Pepsi abandons Super Bowl in favor of CRM
Pepsi abandons Super Bowl in favor of CRM

Britney Spears, Cindy Crawford and Ozzy Osborne all have appeared in Pepsi Super Bowl ads. But this year, the soft drink brand is breaking tradition, opting for a digital CRM program to drive a two-way discussion with consumers instead of a splashy, Super Bowl spot for its flagship soft drink.

The strategy shift means Pepsi will inject $20 million into its cause-related Refresh Project that helps people improve their communities through a variety of projects funded by the marketer. PepsiCo will officially launch a Web site, RefreshEverything.com, on January 13. On it, consumers can list projects that can improve communities, such as feeding the hungry or teaching people to read. Consumers can vote on the site beginning February 1 on projects they think should receive a share of the money. They will be asked to contribute their e-mail addresses for e-mail alerts on the project.

However, Nicole Bradley, spokesperson for PepsiCo, tells DMNews the primary goal is to create a two-way dialogue with loyal and prospective customers, rather than build an e-mail database for marketing.

"The Super Bowl broadcast can be an amazing stage for broadcasters, and [PepsiCo subsidiary] Frito Lay will be there in a big way," she says. "But our beverage brands' marketing strategy in 2010 [is] less about a singular event and more about a movement. We are always looking to further develop our two-way conversation with consumers."

The CRM campaign asks consumers to suggest ways that Pepsi can get involved in social causes. Bradley added that the company has made no decision on marketing for the 2011 Super Bowl and beyond.

With the effort, PepsiCo is taking its marketing initiatives to where its target audience is already spending much of its time, says Tracy Tuten, associate professor of marketing at East Carolina University.

"Pepsi has always positioned itself as being about the youth market of America, and young people now are inundated with social media," she says. "They are also increasingly involved in sustainability and the greater good and all of those issues. "Pepsi is making a big statement that they want to be about all of those things that their target [audience] is about."

Tuten adds that Pepsi's e-mail address collection could also be used to create a standalone social networking community.

The move marks the first time in 23 years that the NFL's championship game will not have an ad promoting Pepsi. PepsiCo spent $33 million advertising Pepsi, Gatorade and Cheetos during 2009's Super Bowl XLIII, according to an Associated Press report. TNS Media Intelligence, which measures advertising spending, reported that PepsiCo spent $142.8 million on 10 Super Bowl ads from 1999 to 2008 for its brands, ranking the company second only to Anheuser-Busch during that period.

The economy is compelling other brands to take a break from Super Bowl advertising. For the second straight year, FedEx will not advertise during the game, during which spots will reportedly cost nearly $3 million.

For PepsiCo, the decision to shift some of its marketing spend to a digital engagement project may have come down to measuring marketing effectiveness during the tough economy, says Dean DiBiase, chairman of RebootPartners.com and the former CEO of TNS Media.

"Digital advertising is going to have a better ROI for [Pepsi]," he says. "It just seems like it's a better fit for what they are doing in the real world than putting money into the Super Bowl."

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