SBJ/May 30 - June 6, 2011/In Depth

The Gatekeepers: Jeff Dubiel

Vice president of sports marketing, PepsiCo

Since stepping into Pepsi’s top sports post in 2008, Jeff Dubiel has received more than a few peculiar sponsorship pitches. There was the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament and the arm wrestling competition, for example, as well as the Lingerie Football League, which queried him this month.

“We get about 50 strange ones a week,” Dubiel said.

PEPSICO
Jeff Dubiel
Size, demographics, relevancy and TV market metrics separate the mere pitches from the sports properties Pepsi signs with. Pepsi’s sponsorships are highlighted by deals with the NFL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and multiple teams.

Dubiel applies the “right fit for the brand” sniff test to potential partners. An attractive sports partner provides Pepsi ample opportunities to connect directly to fans. In fact, the National Rock, Paper, Scissors College Competition passed that test and landed a deal with Pepsi’s AMP brand.

“I’m always asking myself ‘How does this fuel a social connection between fans that gives them something they can’t get from other brands in the sport?’” Dubiel said.

And while it’s been 27 years since Pepsi launched its “New Generation” campaign,
Dubiel said the brand still targets youth, specifically Generation X and millennial males. “With Pepsi Max we are really focused on [the youth] demographic, and it is a total bull’s-eye with the sports environment.”

Pepsi brings its on-site experiential marketing campaign to major partnership events, and rounds out its partnerships with media buys and in-arena signage. The brand also reaches out directly to fans with its Pepsi Refresh program, which provides grants to community initiatives and organizations.

In March, Pepsi slipped to No. 3 in the U.S. soda market, behind Coke and Diet Coke. Dubiel, however, said the primary challenge facing Pepsi now is the flat market for all carbonated soft drinks. “I’m optimistic,” Dubiel said, “that it’s an opportunity to reinvigorate the entire category, not just Pepsi.”

Where brands could do better: “Growing the overall soda category.”

The onset of social media means they can: “Create reach and affinity in Gen X and millennials like never before. But nobody really knows how to control it yet.”
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