Pepsi and the NFL have been partners since the beverage
giant took over league rights to the cola category from rival Coca-Cola in
2002. And in 2012, PepsiCo and the NFL extended their alliance with a ten-year
deal that analysts put in the multibillion-dollar range. Pepsi siblings
Gatorade, Tropicana and Frito-Lay also are league partners.
This season, Pepsi will be in the second year of its second
tenure as title sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show via a deal signed in
2012 that should carry through the historic Super Bowl L in 2016. Super Bowl
XLVIII this February will be played in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium.
Pepsi already has significant presence as a cornerstone
partner, (along with Bud Light, Verizon and SAP) in the home venue of the NFL's
New York Giants and Jets, which is located not far from parent company PepsiCo's
corporate headquarters in Purchase, N.Y.
Pepsi in 2002 also launched what was then the Diet Pepsi
Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year awards, voted on by fans mainly via
NFL.com. The voting now is under the Pepsi Max banner.
Zach Harris, marketing director, Pepsi Sports-NFL speaks
here about the brand's alliance with the league, the power (or lack thereof) of
NFL rookies, marketing support for the 2013 Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week and
Year voting and the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show.
How would you describe Pepsi's return on investment
for its NFL alliance, including the Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week and Year
awards and the Super Bowl halftime show?
Pepsi has a long-standing relationship with the NFL and the NFL Players
Association, and both relationships have been great. The concept of rookies
ties in especially well with Pepsi: a fresh outlook, a new class, the anticipation
of great things to come, is everything that our brands—and this year we are
talking about Pepsi Next—and our company values. We get excited this time of
year when a new class is coming in with a new outlook and new potential. We are
anxious to get the Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year voting
started when the 2013 season begins. And if you add that to our other
NFL-related activations, not the least of which is the Super Bowl halftime
show, we believe that really translates well into fan and consumer loyalty.
It might be hard to ever top the rookie Class of 2012
with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Alfred Morris and others,
but what do you see for the rookie class of 2013?
Every year is different. So I appreciate and look forward to meeting them
and speaking with them at such events as the NFLPA Rookie Premiere, to get to
know them off the field and to get to understand who they are and what they are
like-to get to understand their personality and marketability, if you will. And
at the same time to talk to them about Pepsi and our alliance with the NFL and
the rookie platform, especially through the Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week and
Rookie of the Year voting. There may not be the same type of buzz this year as
last year, or the year before with Cam Newton, Julio Jones, J.J. Watt and some
of the others. But don't let that fool you. There will be rookie standouts.
There will be leaders who will rise to the top.
What type of response have you received from consumers
and fans regarding Pepsi's activation behind and support of the Rookie of the
Week and Rookie of the Year programs?
We have a lot of equity in the rookie programs, which we continue to build every
year. It has been more than ten years now since we began working with the NFL
rookie platforms. And the best news is that those platforms and the support
behind them are still growing. The fact that this is determined by the fans is
very important, and we have seen the number of fan votes continue to grow. We
hit an all-time high last season for the Pepsi Max voting when Russell Wilson
won. We unveiled the winner during Super Bowl week in New Orleans, which
received tremendous press. So fans know to go back every week to vote and every
year to vote. The fan base knows that Pepsi supports rookies and that we are
here for them.
It's never too early to talk about the Super Bowl. What
can you reveal about Pepsi's plans for Super Bowl XLVIII this February in
I love that the buzz for this Super Bowl has already started. I am based in New
York. PepsiCo is based in New York. We are a global organization with roots in
New York. I love the fact that MetLife Stadium is one of our premiere
partnerships. There is a lot of anticipation for this Super Bowl and so many
opportunities for us to shine.
Pepsi is a cornerstone partner at MetLife and PepsiCo
is located not far north of New York City, so how much added incentive is there
We look forward to welcoming everyone to our back yard, but we want to make
sure that we do it right. We will have a significant presence throughout New
York and New Jersey. We do that every year [in the cities where the game is
being played] leading up to the Super Bowl, but there certainly is a unique
twist here to embrace the elements and the location and to work with our
partners. And when you add all of that to Pepsi's [title sponsorship of the
Super Bowl] halftime show, it is something that Pepsi is very much excited
about. It is new and fresh to fans and consumers, and the opportunities that
Pepsi sees will be new and fresh. We currently are working through ideas and
plans. But if I reveal too much [the Pepsi executives] would come in and cut
off the conversation.
How would you describe Pepsi's alliance with MLB, the
naming rights deal for Pepsi Center in Denver -- home to the NBA's Nuggets
and NHL's Avalanche -- and other sports, domestically and worldwide?
I would say the results have been strong across our sports portfolio. My focus
is the NFL so I can address that directly. From a portfolio standpoint, we
always look for ways to engage our consumers, work with our fans and tap into
our fan behavior in a way that gets people excited. And there is nothing like
capturing the excitement of 'Next' and everything that Pepsi stands for. Here,
we are doing that with sports and with the NFL. The best way to put it is to
say that our relationship with the NFL has grown every year and will continue
Not too long ago, the NFL had what would be considered
an off-season, but that has changed with the expansion of NFL and marketing
activation around the NFL Draft, the scouting combine, rookie mini-camps, OTAs
and other events leading to the preseason. How is Pepsi ramping up along with
We want to activate fully, year-round behind our partnership with the NFL, so
we welcome the opportunity to work with the league in their year-round efforts.
The NFL is no longer about starting in September and ending in February. We
continually look for ways to enhance our presence in certain areas and to build
up our presence in all our NFL activations. We are involved with the NFL
year-round. In the case of rookies, we are there to support the NFLPA and the
rookie class. We support our rookies throughout the entire year.
What is the feeling at Pepsi about the number of the
rookies with whom you have worked who have continued to establish themselves on
It is a great feeling to be part of an athlete's professional career from the
beginning. It is a great feeling that Pepsi and Pepsi Max are in on the ground
floor and involved with the rookies from the start at events such as the NFLPA
Rookie Premiere orientation. The fact that some of our rookies of the year have
become big names, household names, and that they came from the Pepsi program,
is something that we as a brand and PepsiCo as a company are definitely proud
This Q&A was reprinted with permission