Sorry, we don’t have Super Bowl, is Pepsi bowl ok?

David Kennedy
By David Kennedy | 12 February 2024
David Kennedy-Cosgrove, Michelle Hampton and Angela Hampton

I have two confessions. I’ve seamlessly and painfully crowbarred tens of Usher songs into this piece. And I’m not a cat person, but today I’m trading places for Mayo Cat.

Of course, a Vegas Super Bowl was going to be bigger than any other.

If last year was Celebrity Bowl (and with 50% of ads featuring them, 2024 largely still is), then this year could be Pepsi Bowl. Three years after walking away from the halftime sponsorship - handing the reins to Apple Music - PepsiCo has done a U-turn, ushering in a new era to hacking the Super Bowl.

In an attempt to crash the party, PepsiCo have turned Vegas’ landmarks into their playground, and there’s a lot of love in this club for their work.  To quote Pepsi CMO Todd Kaplan’s LinkedIn post “What happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas."

This year they invested big in the ‘creator economy’ to help do the heavy sipping. In Pepsi’s eyes, a Super Bowl TV spot reaches 115M.  The combined reach of their two big Pepsi Wild Cherry partnerships with Zach King taking over the Sphere and Khaby Lame - the most followed person on TikTok - would reach almost 400M. Making marketers the world over scream, OMG!

But PepsiCo didn’t just stop there, they also took their snack brands on their wild Vegas weekender.  The giant Dorito on the side of the Luxor hotel travelled at the speed of social last week. And their Cheetos brand turned Vegas’ faux Brooklyn Bridge into the Cheetos Wedding Chapel. All of which has likely generated millions of dollars in social and earned reach around the world.

So, whilst I don’t mind PepsiCo’s partnership and OOH strategy to generate lots of earned, let’s not get caught up on it. With $17.5B USD in consumer spending at stake this year, there’s lots more to see at this year’s Bowl. 

UberEats, u remind me that good Super Bowl advertising is worth remembering. The Beckham teaser was so well seeded it really is an ad in its own right.  But the superstar moment that got a us all saying yeah! was the reunion of Aniston and Schwimmer.

Let’s take it nice and slow for a minute. Not every Bowl ad needs to be big, feature a celeb or be funny. Google Pixel’s Javier in Frame reminded us of the small things we take for granted, but the big challenges tech can solve.

But you know u got it bad when you can’t shake an ad phrase out of your head, and Hellmann’s Mayo Cat seems to have done just that, catching TikTok’s imagination along the way. Science even proves it, with research company System 1 scoring it in the all-time top 5% of Bowl ads in terms of achieving long-term effectiveness.

And if the Super Bowl feels a little more in your face this year, maybe it’s more than just the Vegas fumes and Pepsi gorilla marketing. It’s because we’re all living in Taylor’s world now.  The storm around her making it back in time from Japan to catch Travis “my boo” Kelce play has added fuel to the Bowl’s social and PR frenzy. It’s because of this the best tactical Bowl ad goes to the Japanese Government who - not missing a beat - released an official statement reassuring crazed fans it was indeed possible. Kudos to their PR machine here, you make me wanna visit again. 

And if you’re a brand with cash, this is the year you gotta let it burn. The Swift Effect is also driving a huge shift in sports fans’ demographics, attracting unprecedented female attention – reportedly boosting female viewership by 53% among 12-17 year-olds.

But with all the earned attention being generated from non-sponsoring and non-paying entities, will brands start to think they can do it without you next year, Super Bowl?

If you counted all the Usher songs, u don’t have to call, just email me for a goodie bag

Here’s our live tracker of the best Super Bowl ads and themes which we'll update throughout the day.

David Kennedy, Partner @WiredCo

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