PepsiCo earlier this month revealed that it will not run any ads for its beverage brands during the upcoming Super Bowl after being the top advertiser during last year's broadcast of the big game. (Its Doritos snack brand will still advertise during the 2010 Super Bowl.)
The move reflects Pepsi shifting more of its marketing efforts to the Internet, with plans to spend 60% more on online ads in 2010, according to a Wall Street Journal article. The company believes the Web is the best way to reach younger audiences and keep consumers buzzing about the Pepsi brand.
Highlighting its online push, the company is launching a social media campaign dubbed the Pepsi Refresh Project, awarding $20 million in grant money for thousands of community projects proposed and voted on by consumers online. Pepsi has already set up a dedicated Facebook page to promote the effort.
But will the emphasis on Web marketing payoff, especially when arch rival Coca-Cola will have Super Bowl XLIV all to itself? A new analysis by Compete suggests it may be a good bet. To gauge the effectiveness of Pepsi's online advertising, the Web analytics firm looked at its sponsorship of the Rookie of the Week section on NFL.com. It compared consumers exposed to Pepsi ads on the section to site visitors who didn't see the ads.
Compete found that nearly 20% of those who saw the ads on the Rookie section of the site in November visited one of Pepsi's many branded sites including Pepsi.com, Pepsiusa.com and Refresheverything.com. That compares to a view-through, or rate of 0.5%, for NFL.com visitors who didn't see the Pepsi ads. (View-through measures the proportion of ad viewers who later went to a campaign-related site without clicking on an ad.)
Compete also noted that Pepsi sites captured only 16% of the control group of NFL.com visitors who didn't see the company's ads, while Coke sites drew the balance. For the exposed group, it was the reverse, with Pepsi sites attracting 83% and Coke, 17%.
"So what can we learn from all this? Pepsi is making the right move by shifting their ad dollars online where they are clearly making an impact with their media buys by changing consumer behavior in their favor," concluded Compete analyst Jessica Ong.
Super Bowl spots seen by more than 100 million viewers, however, can certainly help boost Web traffic -- at least temporarily. Denny's Super Bowl ad last year promoting its offer of a free Grand Slam breakfast drove traffic to Dennys.com up 17 times above the level in the week leading up the Super Bowl. The restaurant chain is expected to extend a similar free giveaway with its second-half spot during the game.
The absence of Super Bowl advertising in 2010 should allow Pepsi to see what difference, if any, the high-profile spots have made in driving traffic to its Web properties. And whether the expense is worth any bump in online activity following the airing of TV ads.