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Volume 23 No. 29
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Pepsi skips TV kickoff for digital

Pepsi, one of the NFL’s biggest corporate sponsors, is kicking off its NFL campaign without football-themed TV ads for the first time in memory.

Instead of the usual kickoff TV campaign with NFL stars, Pepsi is relying on an expanded Web presence.

“We’re more regional and more digital in our marketing because at the beginning of the season, the online [NFL] fan traffic is pretty incredible because of pent-up demand and fantasy drafts. So the idea is to be where the fans are,” said Adam Harter, Pepsi vice president of consumer engagement.

Pepsi has been an NFL corporate sponsor since 2002 and its move to focus on digital could portend a trend from more big sponsors, especially as Web video traffic and TV viewing with multiple screens continue to increase.

Among the Web offerings from Pepsi are an expanded version of its “NFL Rookies” show to nine episodes on both NFL.com and Pepsi’s site.

Pespi will be active locally, including through its sponsorship at the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium.
Photo by: PEPSI
Meanwhile, Pepsi’s beverage side also is increasing its NFL activation with some of its larger food service and retail customers, including Buffalo Wild Wings, which switched from Coke to Pepsi beverages early this year. It’s also doing expanded efforts at Wal-Mart and Hess locations. In addition, with Pepsi’s Tostitos brand out of its collegiate football bowl, that brand also is leveraging the NFL this season.

Buffalo Wild Wings will run a digital spot supporting Pepsi, in which Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton surprises fans at the sports bar with Bengals tickets. Looking to push Buffalo Wild Wings as a site for fantasy drafts, Pepsi also supplied all Buffalo Wild Wings locations with point of sale, coupons and giveaways. That creative eventually will be developed into a 60-second TV ad airing only on NFL Network.

In local NFL markets, where Pepsi has 15 exclusive team deals, there’s traditional support, including branded 12-packs at retail and point of sale featuring local players in every NFL market. As a sponsor in the new Levi’s Stadium, there are also a variety of 49ers promos highly leveraged in the Bay Area.

Harter said a push behind Pepsi’s Super Bowl halftime show sponsorship will start late this year. Last year, it began with the season.

“Early in the season, when the weather’s great, we think it’s appropriate to have messages about refreshment,” he said.