SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40

Ralph Santana


Ralph Santana
Age: 39
Title: Vice president, sports, media and interactive marketing
Company: Pepsi-Cola North America
Education: B.A., English literature, Dartmouth, 1989, MBA, Duke University, 1994
Family: Wife, Shellene; sons, Justin, 4, and Tyler, 22 months
Career: Began career with Beverage Marketing Corp. from 1989-1992; has been with Pepsi and Frito-Lay in a variety of marketing positions since 1994; moved into his current position in October 2006.
Last vacation: San Diego late last year
Last book read: "Yank: Memoir of a World War II Soldier (1941-1945) — From the Desert War of North Africa to the Allied Invasion of Europe, From German POW Camp to Home Again,” by Ted Ellsworth
Last movie seen: "The Departed”
TV show you never miss: "Battlestar Galactica”
What’s on your iPod: Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige
Pet peeve: None
Greatest achievement: Raising two boys and still finding time for my wife
Greatest disappointment: My double-digit golf handicap
Best sporting event you’ve ever attended: The NASCAR race at Talladega; it’s engaging in a way that football or baseball aren’t.
Fantasy job: Secretary of state
Executive you most admire: Ken Chenault, American Express CEO
Business advice: Surround yourself with good people with different skill sets than yourself.

Ralph Santana was in his new job as vice president of media, sports and interactive marketing at Pepsi for a matter of weeks when he saw a chance for a big idea last fall. Of course, to pull it off, it would mean adding to Pepsi's NFL inventory, and Pepsi already had considerable NFL marketing assets, starting with a league sponsorship.

Still, the chance to title sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show and support it with the NFL championship's first watch-and-win promotion was tempting. So the Super Can contest, a promotion that offered a sterling-silver, jewel-bedecked Pepsi can worth $100,000, along with Super Bowl tickets for life as first prize, struck Santana as a risk worth taking, even with only six weeks to put the program together.

Less than a month after the Super Bowl, Santana knows the promo was a winner. Intangibly, "It was big, sexy and had a huge wow factor," he said. "With a brand like Pepsi, you need to generate a few of those a year."

More tangibly, it generated enough incremental retail displays that Santana knows before all the cases are counted that it worked. While he started his 12 years at Pepsi working offshore accounts, retail marketing is the language he speaks best.

"Once you understand how Wal-Mart ticks or what's important to Target, it is so much easier for a brand marketer to drive business," said Santana, whose Pepsi résumé also includes stints with Frito-Lay and running the joint venture through which Pepsi markets Lipton Brisk ready-to-drink iced tea. "If someone [in the brand group at Pepsi] doesn't understand the drivers at a CVS or 7-Eleven, you'll end up getting programs that don't get much retail support."

Like many brand marketers, Santana is still trying to solve the vexing puzzle of sponsorship return-on-investment, but "I can tell you precisely how many account-specific retail programs each Pepsi property has." That's his most important metric.

Santana's comprehensive understanding of trade and consumer marketing, and his experience across many Pepsi brands, made him a logical choice to replace John Galloway after Galloway headed west to lead Pepsi's Izze Beverage last year.

"Ralph's got experience across the Pepsi brand portfolio, and it's already helping us get more value out of Pepsi properties," said John Tatum at Pepsi sports marketing agency Genesco Sports Enterprises.

Since media is also under his purview, Santana hopes to leverage Pepsi sponsorships farther with creative use of branded content. An early example will be a Jeff Gordon biography that will be broadcast before the Pepsi 400 in July — ironically enough, a race that will be run without commercial breaks. He's also looking to better leverage the digital sports domain, another key area under his aegis.

"Ralph's leadership skills and marketing expertise helped transform Super Bowl halftime from a media and entertainment platform into a real fan engagement vehicle," said Peter Murray, NFL vice president for partnership marketing and corporate sales. "Looking ahead, I'm sure Ralph will be driving innovative NFL activation fueled by emerging media."

— Terry Lefton

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