Pepsi Pulls Out of Super Bowl – So What?

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals - Wild Card RoundPepsi’s decision to not advertise during the upcoming Super Bowl may have come as a surprise to many.  Especially with the buzz these ads generate and water cooler conversations they occupy in the days following the game.

Instead of Super Bowl ads, Pepsi will be sinking its dollars into cause-based social media, investing $20 million into its Refresh Project, which helps people improve their communities through a variety of projects, funded by Pepsi, according to a report by DMNews.

While Pepsi’s decision to invest in communities nationwide, as opposed to flashy and often ostentatious Super Bowl ads is undoubtedly admirable, one can’t help but wonder if Pepsi is the first in a line of many that will dump traditional media for social media.  Are they an exception – or the trend?  Is this decision a touchdown or a fumble?

Sure, Super Bowl ads are memorable and a draw for many viewers.  But does Naomi Campbell dancing with lizards motivate you to buy Sobe?  Does office-related humor give you an incentive to trade UPS in for FedEx?

We all talk about the Super Bowl ads and many who don’t watch the game admit to tuning in periodically in the hopes of catching what becomes the most beloved ad of the game.  But do they actually motivate us?  Yes, we talk about them and we know the brand that each represents.  What I am getting at, is, do we actually buy the product?  Try the service?  Abandon pre-existing brand loyalties?  simply because we enjoy an ad that we saw during the Super Bowl.

While one could undoubtedly argue the same for social media (that a brand having an impressive fan page isn’t enough to inspire action,) you can’t help but question if it is still a better use of marketing dollars.

Social Media is interactive, measurable, and, undoubtedly, less expensive than buying Super Bowls ads (which happened to cost a mere $2.6 million for 30-seconds last year – in 1967 CBS charged $42,500, by the way.)  It also has the ability to be changed more frequently and enables consumers to engage 24/7, on their terms.  Yes, the ad makes a big splash and consumers expect it, but I would gladly forego seeing a great ad to know a company is helping communities nationwide with those dollars.

With the Super Bowl on the horizon, I am interested to see (1) if Pepsi experiences any backlash for not advertising during the Super Bowl and (2) how many brands that do advertise, if any, will issue statements following the game, indicating that they will be pulling their ads in 2011 and implementing a program similar to Pepsi’s.

Can you imagine a Super Bowl without ads?  Is this a realistic vision/model?

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  • Does anyone else see more and more games moving to NFL Network if advertisers continue to pull their ads?

  • Maybe it's just me, but I remember the last solid 4-ish years as friends saying “man, the commercials weren't any good this year during the Superbowl.” Barring a few forays into tastelessness, the ads just don't have the same must-watchedness as they used to. Yanno why? We already get tons of free, hilarious, viral content on this thing called the internet! Superbowl ads were a sweet idea back when it was difficult to get a meme started; not so anymore. What is a Superbowl ad buying a brand now? Just the prestige of being a Superbowl ad, I think.

  • Great post- I'm not sure what to think of Pepsi focusing all their efforts on SM because the “core” audience of the Super Bowl probably isn't on Twitter/other social networking sites and I don't necessarily think Pepsi will shove them in the direction to join. What I do think we'll see with brands running commercials is a link to their Twitter/FB pages at the end of commercials to target those who are social media savvy.

    If we do see a big shift in brands pulling ads, it will affect the Super Bowl big time- a lot of people I know only watch the SB for the commercials!

  • jeffespo

    Interesting points Danielle. I would guess that there will still be advertisers with the NFL, its too big a draw not to. I would also guess that Pepsi will be back. Perhaps the bigger question will be to see if the gamble paid off for their CMO. Was the investment and goodwill via the cause SM campaign worth the WOM and viral nature of many of the SB commercials.

  • I look forward to seeing how this works out for Pepsi. Smart move, I think. Yeah, there's still that “prestige” I suppose of having a Super Bowl commercial, Super Bowl commercials haven't been as creative/had as much of a lasting impression in the past few years. The most successful ones end up being shared and viewed millions of times on YouTube after the fact anyway, right? Digital FTW. Wonder if this will spur any trends.

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