The decision of what to ordain a hero becomes a delicate balance for Pepsi as it looks to transform its food offerings to suit the next generation, while also protecting its core sales. Chief Executive Indra Nooyi told investors in October the company had sacrificed too much of the latter in favor of the former as she explained disappointing beverage sales in North America.
Last year, Pepsi’s hero product for the Super Bowl was its newly launched premium water brand Lifewtr. Neither its flagship Pepsi cola nor Doritos chips had in-game commercials (though Pepsi Zero Sugar did sponsor the halftime show and have an ad before the trophy presentation).
This year, Pepsi is returning to its roots. It is putting its marketing dollars behind two products that are brand extensions of its core: Mtn Dew Ice, a 100 calorie per 12 ounce lemon-lime soda with caffeine, and Doritos Blaze, a spicy new addition to the Doritos brand.
“You want to strike the right balance. It’s an incredibly great time to launch a new product. You want to reinforce the core and target new things. This year shows the strength of our core brands,” said Derek Lewis, senior vice president and general manager of Pepsi North America field operations.
Pepsi says it remains committed to Lifewtr, with plans to put further marketing emphasis behind the drink.
One perennial hero for Pepsi, though, is its Tostitos tortilla chips.
“It’s a dipping holiday,” said Williams, referring to the numerous dips and nachos football fans chomp on while watching the game.