SBJ/June 20-26, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Pepsi returns to ‘Field of Dreams’ theme for ads, promotion

Terry Lefton
Someone very high up within Pepsi must believe “If you build it, they will buy.”

In 1995, the beverage and salty snacks marketer produced a Super Bowl ad that was homage to the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” Earlier this season, Pepsi, an MLB corporate sponsor since 1997, hired commercial director nonpareil Joe Pytka to produce “Field of Dreams”-inspired TV and online ads for Pepsi Max. The spots included no less than seven baseball hall of famers and current MLB stalwarts like CC Sabathia, Jim Thome and Evan Longoria, all playing in a cornfield that was created in a Tampa warehouse specifically for the ads.

Now Pepsi marketers are finalizing a second-half “Field of Dreams” voting program in which consumers will select the best living players
at every position. Once that team is determined, a sweepstakes winner will have it playing a game next season — not in a cornfield, but
MLB stars young and old gather at a faux cornfield for the new Pepsi Max ads.
at a minor league, college or high school ballpark in or near the hometown of the winner. The program is reminiscent of Kraft’s six-year old “Hockeyville” promotion in which Canadian communities compete to host an NHL exhibition game at their community rink.

Of course, any baseball promotion that includes a fan election brings to mind the MasterCard-sponsored All-Century Team in 1999 and its 2002 Memorable Moments promo, in which fans voted to determine the 10 most memorable moments in MLB history.

While industry sources noted that there were some budgetary concerns within Pepsi concerning the “Field of Dreams” program, sources in the agent community indicated Pepsi was already in the market signing players for the program, including some players that appeared in this year’s ads.

Traditionally, most of the support behind Pepsi’s MLB sponsorship has been before the mid-July All-Star Game.

ALL IN: As the dates that normally would be associated with NFL training camps get closer, we continue to monitor the field for marketers willing to bite the bullet and commission NFL marketing before a new collective-bargaining agreement is signed.

Your average NFL sponsor is in a quandary. “You are kind of caught in the middle because if a settlement comes late, you can’t be in a position where all you can do is shrug your shoulders,” said a marketer at one of the NFL’s largest corporate sponsors. “But you can’t use players with marks, so if you decide to go ahead with a TV campaign, it kind of restricts what kind of creative you can do.”

Every week, though, we seem to find at least one more big brand shooting NFL TV ads. The latest is Subway, not a league sponsor but a large media buyer on NFL rights holders. The nation’s largest fast feeder shot ads last week in Rockland County, N.Y., that included Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, last season’s Rookie of the Year, along with former New York Giants player and current Fox NFL analyst Michael Strahan and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. As for exactly when those ads will air? “Just as soon as the darn lockout is over,” said Subway CMO Tony Pace.

That’s a date everyone wants to know.

NEW BREW REVIEW: With a Canadian court overturning the NHL’s record Molson deal in favor of incumbent Labatt, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions from teams and marketing types as to how this affects the United States, where Anheuser-Busch had NHL rights since 1994 before MillerCoors signed with the league last year. We are told by a senior league source that MillerCoors’ U.S. rights will transfer seamlessly July 1 and are assured that work on U.S. marketing is proceeding on schedule, both at the league and within the brewer.

In a decision by the Ontario Superior Court (posted online here), Justice Frank Newbould ruled that because “an exclusive negotiating period was extended indefinitely by the NHL,” the league had no right to separately negotiate with MolsonCoors. The judge cited an email from Judy Davey, MolsonCoors marketing vice president, citing concern about entering into negotiations and noted that the MolsonCoors Canadian NHL deal was made only after “gaining an indemnity from the NHL expressly referring to litigation or threatened litigation by Labatt.”

The NHL maintains it did not extend the exclusive negotiating window. The Canadian case is scheduled for a July 7 appeal.

One intriguing note in the decision: If Labatt/Budweiser retain the rights, the league’s official beer in Canada would change, per the brand’s insistence, from Bud Light to Budweiser, which does not receive nearly the same amount of media support.

GETTY IMAGES
Another direction: DeSean Jackson is back with Reed Bergman for marketing deals.
DE MAN:
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is back with Reed Bergman and Playbook as a marketing agent. Jackson was with Bergman when he entered the league at a time when Bergman was with DeBartolo Sports. Jackson is a highlight reel regular, but even all-timer Jerry Rice never made it into the big leagues of off-field endorsements despite his NFL-best 1,549 receptions over 20 years. “DeSean is an electric, big-play guy,” Bergman said. “He’s faster than most in a league of fast athletes, and his relatively small size [5 feet, 10 inches and 175 pounds] makes him more identifiable with everyman, so we see him as unique.”

Jackson has been a Nike endorser since entering the league, but that deal is up.

Rosenhaus Sports continues to handle Jackson’s playing contract.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Randy Burdette has been hired by Nike to be its top executive within the company’s NFL licensing program, which won’t be shipping product to retail until next spring. It’s a hat trick of sorts for Burdette, since he was in charge of the NFL brand at VF and then was licensed property manager, NFL, for Adidas. … In what might be interpreted as a commentary on how much new business the NFL is landing while bereft of a CBA, Marc Lowitz, vice president of business development since last October, has left the NFL for a position with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The 30-year-old museum attracts more than 900,000 visitors annually, already houses the aircraft carrier Intrepid, and soon will add a retired space shuttle prototype to its collection. Lowitz previously held jobs with the AFL and WTA. … Kevin McIntyre leaves the Leverage Agency, New York, where he had been senior vice president of sales, for a job as vice president/global partnerships with Major League Gaming, also in New York City.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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