Pepsi steps away from Super Bowl Halftime Show amid strategic pivot

    • Pepsi announced on Twitter that it will no longer sponsor the Super Bowl Halftime Show, a midgame extravaganza it has held the rights to for the past decade.
    • While the brand is stepping away from that particular event, its parent company, PepsiCo, is renewing a larger partnership with the NFL that covers a wide portion of its portfolio including Pepsi, Gatorade, Quaker and Frito-Lay’s Tostitos. The multiyear extension of the relationship with the league, which goes back 40 years, includes the development of a new Gatorade product that will be available to NFL athletes this fall and consumers starting in early 2023.
    • When Pepsi first signed on for the Halftime Show in 2012, it came as part of a 10-year agreement valued at $2 billion, according to contemporary reporting in The Wall Street Journal. CNBC said the NFL is now seeking up to $50 million for the game’s halftime rights alone, a price tag that comes despite a declining audience for linear TV viewing.

    Pepsi is relinquishing what’s come to be a cornerstone of its sports marketing with the decision not to renew on the Super Bowl Halftime Show. The midgame musical act has long been a chatter-generating occasion, and the soft drink marketer often delivered a level of glitz and glam befitting television’s most-watched event. Pepsi won the Twitter Bowl — an analysis of what’s driving the conversation on the platform on Super Bowl Sunday — three years in a row and commanded 72% share of voice on social media for Super Bowl LVI in February.

    The brand’s final bow as title sponsor earlier this year brought out a cavalcade of stars, including Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, and was warmly received by fans and media critics alike. In retrospect, it reads as a sort of grand finale following Pepsi’s decade overseeing the show. CNBC first reported on the NFL’s plans to take the sponsorship rights to market in October.

    That said, PepsiCo is hardly cutting ties with the NFL. It’s renewed an extensive deal with the league that covers key events like the NFL Draft and other brands like Gatorade, the longest-running NFL partner in its portfolio. With the renewal, Pepsi is also bringing back its fan-voted Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year platforms that honor offensive and defensive league newcomers.

    Still, the moment serves as a passing of the torch — or the mic, per Pepsi’s phrasing on Twitter — during a transitional moment for media.

    PepsiCo has increasingly prioritized streaming and digital platforms as viewership of linear TV plummets. Those bets have further accelerated under the pandemic, though some of the earlier streaming boom is starting to cool as the market gets more saturated and COVID-19 restrictions loosen. The marketer’s activation around the Super Bowl this year included the development of a standalone mobile app with behind-the-scenes content and prizes related to the halftime show. It trended at the No. 3 spot in app stores.

    Pepsi had no additional comment to share when contacted by Marketing Dive.


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