Some Surprise No Shows for Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in American culture, even if you are not a football fan. The reason for the big draw has to do less with the actual sport and more to do with the social and entertainment factors associated with it. With a big halftime show and entertainment pre- and post- broadcast, it is the cornerstone of countless parties and catered gatherings. However, nothing generates as much talk or anticipation as the commercials that are aired during the big event. At least, that’s how it has been, but this year’s big game will be missing two advertisers that have been prominent in the past: Pepsi and FedEx.
With the recent announcements from Pepsi and FedEx that they will not advertise during Super Bowl XLIV, one has to wonder if other big names will follow. Currently, a spot on the Super Bowl broadcast (February 7th, on CBS) fetches between $2.5 and $3 million for a 30 second spot. Commercials for this, the biggest marketing event of the year, have always been pricey, but current economic conditions have forced some changes. So far, a little more than a month out, the usual big names like Anheuser Busch and E-Trade are on board, as are first timers Dr. Pepper and Pop Secret. It is interesting to note that although Pepsi will be missing, its sister product Doritos will air at least three spots.
While FedEx has attributed their absence to cost cutting measures, Pepsi is said to be taking their marketing in a different direction with their “Pepsi Refresh Project.” The campaign will focus more on digital media, and the company is said to be planning a presence at the Super Bowl, just not with pricey TV ads. It will be interesting to see what their creative teams can come up with, especially since rival Coke will have spots and no doubt be looking to capitalize on Pepsi’s marketing re-think. This will be the first time in 23 years that Pepsi will not have commercials.
Is pulling out of the Super Bowl a smart, strategic move or a marketing disaster? Can’t say for sure until the success of the “Refresh Project” can be measured. I’m sure it will be analyzed extensively throughout 2010, but the clear indicator will be the buys for the Super Bowl in 2011. Look for Pepsi to come back with spots if the “Refresh Project” doesn’t live up. Until then, we’ll have to see what will get us talking around the water cooler on February 8th, 2010, and I bet it won’t be who scored the most touchdowns.

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