Pepsi’s Super Bowl Playbook: Take The Weeknd

After a decade that’s seen Pepsi produce 11 Super Bowl ads, PepsiCo has announced that it will bench its flagship brand for Super Bowl LV. 

But Pepsi is still storming the big event as title sponsor of the halftime show starring The Weeknd, who appears in what is to date the most buzzed-about TV ad among the pre-release pack in the iSpot.tv Super Bowl Ad Center so far. 

And while PepsiCo is choosing not to fork over $5.5 million or so to drop a 30- or 60-second ad for the reach of the big game, consider the $31.7 million (est.) that it’s invested in its halftime teaser. The promo has generated 651 million TV impressions over 720 (sports-centric) airings so far, giving the brand heavy frequency during playoff football with household decision-makers who are most likely to spend with Pepsi during this month.

Want more reasons why Pepsi’s bet on the halftime promo is looking to pay off? According to an iSpot Ace Metrix survey, while music is what people like most about the creative, the majority (64%) of respondents identify Pepsi as a primary message, and viewer comments are overwhelmingly positive; across the board, the halftime teaser is outperforming ads for the brand and in the soft drink category.

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PepsiCo is a dominant TV investor. Pepsi itself has led the soft drink advertising category so far this year with 48% of industry spend, and PepsiCo owns the top two brands (in terms of TV advertising spend) going back to January of 2020 between Pepsi (18%) and Mountain Dew (20%).

The soft drink giant understands TV and has a history of getting a lot of attention for its Super Bowl commercials. For instance who could forget the 2018 Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew ad, which outperformed the pack that year? (Doritos are made by PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America unit.)

Other highlights:

In 2020, Pepsi Zero Sugar rocked out with Missy Elliott and H.E.R. in a “surreal” Super Bowl spot

  • Viewers considered the music the single best thing about the ad. Typically, music choice does not stand out on game day — on average only 5% of viewers considered it the Single Best Thing about ‘20 Super Bowl spots. 
  • The top emotion prompted was “surreal.” 
  • The Big Game spend accounted for 13% of Pepsi Zero Sugar’s total estimated outlay. 
  • This was a big year for celeb ads, with 78% of Super Bowl spots including at least one and 42% having multiple. 

In 2019, Steve Carell, Cardi B and Lil Jon passionately explained why Pepsi is “more than ok.” 

  • Nearly half (43%) of viewers considered the characters the single best thing about the ad.
  • Nearly 7% of Pepsi’s total estimated ad spend for 2019 went to the Super Bowl airing of this spot. 
  • Viewers literally loved it (“love it” was top emotion). 
  • This ad performed above average for 2019 Super Bowl ads for all of iSpot’s Ace Metrix scores, with a particularly high score of 751 for Attention (vs the 2019 Super Bowl norm of 671). 

2018’s Big Game ad featured throwbacks to old Pepsi spokespeople and brand integrations, including Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, Uncle Drew, Back to the Future and Jeff Gordon.

  • Viewers considered the visual scenes the best thing about the ad.
  • The top emotion the spot evoked was nostalgia. 
  • About 3.5% of Pepsi’s total estimated ad spend for 2018 went to the Super Bowl airing of this spot. 
  • This spot scored above-average for 2018 Super Bowl spots across multiple components, including attention and likeability.