Agencies Get Shot at Pepsi Link Via SoBe Pitch

NEW YORK — SoBe, the New Age line of beverages acquired by PepsiCo last year, is in the late stages of a search for an ad agency to handle creative duties, sources said.

The billings are modest (about $10 million), but SoBe represents an opportunity to forge a relationship with Pepsi. Plus, based on the involvement of senior Pepsi executives such as North American CEO Gary Rodkin and svp, strategy and marketing Dawn Hudson in the search, the brand is considered to be a high priority for its new owner.

New York shops Fallon and Merkley Newman Harty & Partners, and a third agency that could not be identified, pitched creative concepts to a client selection committee in March. More meetings are scheduled for this week, said sources. A SoBe representative confirmed a review was under way, but declined further comment.

Rodkin and Hudson were part of an 8-9 person panel that included SoBe CEO John Bello and COO Tom Bene, himself a former Pepsi executive, said sources. SoBe, which Pepsi acquired for $370 million, maintains its own management team and operation in Norwalk, Conn.

Merkley is not a Pepsi roster shop, but has pitched Pepsi business-including Aquafina in 2000-in the past. Fallon handles advertising for a joint venture between Pepsi and Starbucks in which Pepsi distributes Starbucks-branded products, such as Frappuccino, in supermarkets and delicatessens.

SoBe’s previous marketing efforts have relied on sponsorships and guerrilla marketing. Last year, however, the Philadelphia shop now called Tierney DeGregorio Advertising created a radio campaign that featured two fans making up songs about SoBe. That campaign used the theme, “SoBe freestyle.”

SoBe, whose logo consists of two lizards in a ying-yang position, markets teas and energy drinks, and competes with the likes of Snapple and Vitamin Water.

The agencies either declined comment or could not be reached.