Super Bowl Commercials & Beverages: 2009


Another Super Bowl has come and gone, and with it, a whole new batch of high-profile commercials. Given that we’re a beverage reviewing site, I’d like to take a look at the non-alcoholic drink ads that graced our TVs during the matchup between the Cardinals and Steelers.

Super Bowl XLIII

Two beverage companies featured advertising during the Super Bowl this year… it’s not a surprise that they were The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo. Coke fielded 3 unique ads, while Pepsi showed 5. We’ve done detailed analysis on each of these ads individually, but here’s a quick overview:

In this tribute to the original 1981 Coke commercial featuring Mean Joe Greene, The Coca-Cola Company debuted the first Coke Zero Super Bowl ad that features Troy Polamalu… and a storyline that seems similar, but different, from the original spot.

This spot for Coke “shows how people in today’s busy world use technology to stay virtually linked”, but it also showcases how two people connect over high fructose corn syrup-sweetened goodness, while sitting in a diner that doesn’t exist on Earth, using straws (seriously, straws?) to drink out of glass bottles that Coke doesn’t even use in mainstream distribution.

This Coke commercial — part of the new “Open Happiness” campaign — features a bunch of bugs trying to steal a bottle from a guy in a park. Lots of CGI and a cheery music score make this a happy spot.

Diet Pepsi Max is relaunched on the big stage as Pepsi Max, a diet drink for men. Will this relaunched product — with new logo, name, and positioning — help in Pepsi‘s battle against Coke Zero?

A 60-second spot for Pepsi featuring the “Refresh Anthem”, sung by Bob Dylan, remixed with Will.i.am. It showcases how Pepsi has moved through the generations as always being the choice of the youthful set. Utilizing a parallel video device, it shows how some things have changed, but a lot of things stay the same.

After debuting the night before via a trio of MacGruber product placement ads, Pepsi runs this Pepsuber spoof during the Super Bowl as part of their introduction of a new logo and slogan, “Refresh Everything”.

This is “Talking Heads”, part of the repositioning of Gatorade around the “G” tagline through a series of “Manifesto” ads. It’s part of Pepsi’s “reinvention” of brands including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, and yes, Gatorade.

This SoBe spot… yuck! The folks over at Arnell Group should be shot and relieved of their duties regarding the SoBe advertising account, because this 3D commercial done in conjunction with Intel, DreamWorks Animation, and NBC, is not only a bad Super Bowl piece… it’s bad marketing.

Before we let the 2009 Super Bowl move into the past, I thought I might be interesting to step back and see how last year’s beverage advertisers did over the past year. Was the Super Bowl exposure worth it?

  • Diet Pepsi Max – “Nod”
    Pepsi spent the big bucks to introduce off Diet Pepsi Max to a larger audience… only to relabel it… rebrand it as Pepsi Max… and spend more money the next year to reintroduce the beverage. Result? Failure.

  • Pepsi – “Magnetic Attraction”
    The reintroduction of Pepsi Stuff with Amazon MP3 downloads never really had the same appeal as the first iteration with Apple’s iTunes. Add to that issues that retailers had with displays that showcased the Amazon brand (sensing that they were a competitor in the marketplace) and this promotion started hot, but in the public perception, fell flat. Result? Underwhelming.

  • Gatorade G2 – “Derek Jeter Footsteps”
    Gatorade G2 was to be the hot new low-calorie version of the iconic sports drink that would appeal to the masses. A year later, Pepsi admitted the launch “was not quite as successful as we think it could have been.” They are now repositioning the drink back at athletes. Result? Poorly Executed.

  • Gatorade – “Man’s Best Friend”
    An amazingly stupid commercial showcasing a dog drinking water out of a bowl. It was done by Arnell Group, the same agency that brought us this year’s amazingly stupid 3D SoBe commercial. After having sales slip in 2008, Pepsi is relaunching Gatorade with new branding, iconography, and ads from a different agency. Result? Failure.

  • SoBe LifeWater – “Thrillicious”
    Trying to take on Coke’s Glacéau Vitaminwater, this spot introduced a bottle design that was very similar to the Coke product. And it featured dancing lizards. 1 year later, Coke had solid financials, while SoBe is relaunching their brand and redesigning their products once again. Result? Failure.

  • Glacéau Vitaminwater – “Jockey”
    Coke had a solid 2008 in overall sales, though the only real growth they saw was in Coke Zero. Vitaminwater didn’t return to the Super Bowl in 2009. Result? Unknown.

  • Amp Energy – “Jumper Cables”
    Pepsi worked hard to give their Amp energy drink brand a boost by sponsoring Dale Earnhardt Jr’s 88 car on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. The drink has grown 127.5% in 2008, with volume sales up 52.1%, outperforming the category. Result? Success.

  • Coca-Cola – “Jinx”
    The election is over, so such a polarizing ad wouldn’t work in 2009, but back in 2008 it made perfect sense. Result? Still, Coke was down North America by 2%, with only Coke Zero showing growth. The flagship seemed to struggle. Appropriate.

  • Coca-Cola – “It’s Mine”
    It’s been interesting to read the reviews of 2009 Coke commercials from this Super Bowl. Many commentators compared this year’s lineup against this very commercial, which they still feel was well-executed and Super Bowl-worthy. That it stands the test of time is notable. Result? Success.

Which commercials from 2009 did you like the best? Leave your comments below!

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