On Sunday, February 3rd, the Super Bowl LIII will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Historically the largest TV event each year, the intensity of this year’s championship game pales in comparison to another battle playing out in Atlanta. Out-of-towners PepsiCo (PEP) have launched an aggressive marketing campaign against the home-team Coca-Cola (KO).
Pepsi’s advertising around the stadium has consisted of placing a bronze statue of their founder, Caleb Bradham, cheers-ing the permanent statue of Coca-Cola founder John Pemperton without permission (which has since been removed), 350+ billboards and banners with taglines like “Pepsi in Atlanta. How Refreshing”, and directly calling-out rival Coke on social media.
“We are absolutely leaning in to make sure that we are painting Atlanta blue during the Super Bowl,” said Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer for Pepsi Beverages North America.
According to Beverage Digest, Coke has picked up 0.5% market share over the last decade, while Pepsi has seen a 1.9% decline in their share.
In terms of stock market performance, the chart below shows Coca-Cola’s and Pepsi’s 1-year total return and TTM dividend yield. Coke has long been considered a dividend favorite, but Pepsi is quickly closing the gap.
While the area around any stadium hosting a Super Bowl is usually zoned off and closed to businesses that aren’t an official sponsor of the big game, the World of Coca-Cola museum is (in)conveniently just 800-yards from the venue and Coke is contracted as the stadium’s official soft-drink vendor.
The NFL’s efforts match Pepsi’s in intensity. While they did not force Coca-Cola to cover the World of Coke with a tarp (it was proposed), they have banned Coca-Cola bottled sodas inside the stadium, fountain Coke will be served in Super Bowl LIII branded cups, and all Dasani water bottles will be stripped of their labels before sale.
The NFL takes these partnerships very seriously. At last year’s Super Bowl LII in Houston, food trucks inside the sponsor-only zone were forced to tape over their tires if not made by NFL sponsor Bridgestone.
Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will air commercials during Super Bowl LIII’s TV broadcast. Rights-holder CBS is charging a record $5.24 million per thirty-second spot, and Pepsi undoubtedly spent more than that on its elaborate Atlanta campaign.
Do Pepsi’s marketing efforts pack a big enough punch to “KO” Atlanta’s long-time favorite?
While the Rams and Patriots fight it out on Sunday for the football crown, remember that the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is actually a pivotal battlefield for a much more important event… The Cola War.