×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Coke, Pepsi Go to Super Bowl Battle Armed with Similar Pitches

Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two of the ad industry’s fiercest competitors, will come to the Super Bowl this Sunday and find common ground.

The two soda giants have tried to outmaneuver each other with advertising for decades. Pepsi bills itself as hip and modern – the “Choice of a New Generation.” Coke, meanwhile, is portrayed as the ultimate refreshment, something that pairs well with any kind of food or with any good time. The goal is to snare consumer attention and keep soda drinkers focused on one beverage over the other. Come NBC’s Sunday’s broadcast of Super Bowl LII, however, the way the two companies talk about themselves may seem pretty similar.

You might call it the Madison Avenue equivalent of two of the most popular girls in high school showing up to the prom wearing the same dress.

In a 30-second ad set to air just before Pepsi’s annual halftime show, narrator Jimmy Fallon will take viewers through a parade of famous images related to some of Pepsi’s most iconic commercials. People in the ad will be spotted with Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar and Diet Pepsi, and the audience will be told that Pepsi is “Celebrating Every Generation.” In the fourth quarter,Coke will run an inspiring 60-second commercial featuring beverages such as Coca Cola, Coke Zero Sugar and Coca-Cola Life. “There’s a different Coke for all of us,” says one of many narrating voices featured in the ad. “Enjoy Yours,” reads a tagline.


“The companies really want to make sure consumers understand that there are options, and the Super Bowl is a great place to make sure that message is not missed,” says Duane Stanford, executive editor of Beverage Digest, a trade publication that tracks the beverage industry.

Pepsi and Coke may sell what is essentially the same brown fizzy water, but they have spent millions of dollars and put in years of effort to make consumers think of them as the yin and yang of carbonated beverages. Coke rolls out memorable slogans like “Coke adds life” or “Have a Coke and a smile,” and uses iconic ads showing people singing about harmony on a hilltop. Pepsi works with celebrities including Britney Spears, Michael J. Fox and Michael Jackson while promoting its soda as something youthful and energizing.

Yet both companies face the same industry challenge. The sector’s three main players – Pepsi, Coke and Dr Pepper Snapple Group – pledged in 2014 to cut the beverage calories consumed per person in the U.S. by 20% by 2025, part of a broader effort to stave off the threat of local taxes on sugary beverages. As a result, they may feel an urgency to get consumers to consider low-calorie or no-calorie options like Pepsi Zero Sugar and Coca-Cola Life as good as, um, “the real thing,” another famous slogan for flagship Coke.

“It’s important that we talk about the breadth of our Coca-Cola portfolio,” says Brynn Bardacke, vice president of content and creative excellence at Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola generated the most sales in 2016 among carbonated sodas, according to Beverage Digest, with Pepsi running in second-place. Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi saw sales fall that year as consumers grow more wary of artificial sweeteners.

The soda giants are also trying to keep consumers interested in their best-known products even as they flock to other sorts of drinks, including waters, juices and teas. “Carbonated soft drink marketers are working to keep their brands relevant in an increasingly competitive beverage marketplace where consumers can be more fickle than ever,” says Gary Hemphill, managing director of research at Beverage Marketing Corp., an industry consultant. “It’s a huge challenge where consumers often are on the chase after the next hot product and are also striving to drink soft drinks that they perceive to be better for you.”

In past years, the Super Bowl served as turf for the companies’ long-running feud, rather than a hand-holding session.  In 2008, Pepsi blocked Coke from buying ads in the first half of the game. And there’s more: In a famous 1995 Super Bowl spot, a Pepsi delivery driver tangles with his Coca-Cola counterpart after the rival decides not to give back a can of Pepsi after taking a taste. The song playing in the background? The Youngbloods’ 1967 hit “Get Together.”

Coca-Cola and Pepsi may have to do just that in the Super Bowl this year to maintain their future fizz.

More TV

  • Joel Kinnaman Mireille Enos Esme Creed

    Amazon's 'Hanna,' New Season of 'False Flag' Lead Strong Berlinale Series Lineup

    Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming high-concept thriller “Hanna” will debut at the 2019 Berlinale Series, with its stars – Esme Creed-Miles, Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos – expected in Berlin for its premiere. Netflix also features in the lineup and will debut “Quicksand,” its first Swedish original. A roster of seven shows also includes big-ticket Sky [...]

  • China’s ‘Boonie Bears’ Reach Korea With

    China’s ‘Boonie Bears’ Reach Korea With Animated Series and Movie

    Two seasons of the hit Chinese animation series “Boonie Bears” have been licensed for release in South Korea. The deal was struck by animation studio Fantawild with content distributor Media to Media. The broker has acquired IPTV and VOD rights to “Boonie Bears: Four Seasons” and “Sunsational Summer and Snow Daze,” a total of 104 [...]

  • Mike Royce24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards,

    CBS Orders Comedy Pilot 'Story of Us' From 'One Day at a Time' Co-Creator Mike Royce

    CBS has ordered a pilot for the comedy “The Story of Us” from writer and executive producer Mike Royce. The hybrid comedy tells the story of how an unlikely couple becomes a family through interviews and vignettes spanning 10 years. In addition to Royce, Nick Stoller and Conor Welch will serve as executive producers. Sony [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Bob Costas Olympics Mike Tirico

    Bob Costas Officially Out at NBC After Nearly 40 Years

    Bob Costas has formally parted ways with NBC after nearly 40 years as a sportscaster for the Peacock. Costas and NBC have been negotiating an exit agreement for months. Word surfaced last summer that he was preparing to end his tenure with the network. Costas confirmed the news in an interview with the New York [...]

  • Happy

    TV Roundup: Syfy Drops First Trailer for Season 2 of 'Happy!'

    In today’s TV News Roundup, Syfy drops the first trailer for the second season of “Happy!” and Imagine Kids & Family sets a partnership with Four M Studios.  FIRST LOOKS Syfy has dropped the first trailer for season two of “Happy!” starring Christopher Meloni and Patton Oswalt. The new season premieres Wednesday, March 27 at 10/9c [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content