Pepsi preps for an uncertain NFL season

As the official soft drink of the NFL for 18 seasons, football has long been a part of the Pepsi playbook. But with the season in question, Todd Kaplan, vice-president of marketing for the cola brand is moving forward with a designed play – and he’s not afraid to call an audible.

If it were a normal year, Pepsi would be parlaying healthy summer sales directly into the euphoric start of the new NFL season—all the while leveraging its association with America’s favorite professional sports league.

No one needs to explain how a not normal this year has been. But despite it all, Pepsi-Cola sales have been strong. In fact, sales volume was up 5.9% for the first six months, per Beverage Digest. But not for the reasons that were mapped out in the early 2020 marketing plans.

After a decade’s worth of declines, PepsiCo has been investing heavily in marketing its namesake product. Eight quarters of growth have followed. It currently owns 9.1% of the US soft drink market. Comparatively, Coke owns 15.8%. Pepsi has been “trying to punch its way out, to get out of the share hole it had been in,” says Duane Stanford, editor, Beverage Digest. “They’ve been spending more. You’ll see them try and take some big swings. [Still], how do you fulfill your marketing objectives in this environment when you’re not even sure the football season will happen?”

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