Top 10 Innovative Brands 2016: #4 Pepsi

The soft-drink giant stands out against fierce competition by placing itself at the center of pop culture.

By Jenny Berg May 17, 2016, 5:50 AM EDT

Also for Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco, Pepsi partnered with DirecTV on a concert series. Projection-mapped images and logos of both Pepsi and DirecTV appeared on the exterior of the concert venue at Pier 70.

Photo: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for DirecTV

Now 50 years old, Pepsi stays relevant—and stakes a claim on millennial consumers—by staging innovative events that tie into two dominating aspects of pop culture: music and sports. The iconic beverage brand is ranked number 29 on Forbes’ list of “Most Valuable Brands” and holds the 15th spot on Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands” list.

For the past four years, the brand has sponsored the Super Bowl’s highly visible halftime show. In an interview with The Street, Simon Lowden, chief marketing officer for Pepsi Beverages North America, equated the halftime show sponsorship to “a 12-and-a-half minute commercial” for the brand and noted the sponsorship places Pepsi “right at the center of pop culture.”

Four months before Katy Perry’s performance at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, Pepsi began rolling out 40 pieces of digital content that showcased conversations about the over-the-top performance. The digital campaign earned approximately one billion media impressions.

In the weeks before the game, the brand staged mysterious activations on the ground in Arizona. For example, riffing off the alien lore that surrounds desert settings, Pepsi placed a crop circle shaped like its logo near the game’s host venue at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The unusual activation was visible from airplanes approaching the area.

Pepsi had an even larger footprint at Super Bowl 50, which took place outside of San Francisco this year. Once again, the brand sponsored the halftime show—this time featuring performances by Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé—and rolled out digital content for months leading up to the game.

On the ground in San Francisco, a new partnership with DirecTV led to a concert series that showcased music, technology, and art for several nights during Super Bowl week- end. Featuring performances from the likes of Dave Matthews Band, the events were held in a custom dome on Pier 70. Organizers wanted the venue to enhance fan engagement and brought in a cutting-edge sound system, arty designs, and projection-mapped photo walls.

Pepsi also capitalized on the Super Bowl buzz to provide a taste of its new hospitality concept, Kola House. The brand’s first lounge and event space will open this year in New York’s meatpacking district. Though the venue’s official menu is still in the works, a pop-up version offered a taste of what’s to come, including dishes made with kola nuts. Guests had beef sliders with kola-caramelized onions, for example, and mixologist cocktails made with kola bitters.

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