Did Pepsi Make the Right Move Walking Away From the Super Bowl Halftime Show?

Breaking down the missed opportunities and benefits behind the big decision

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Every year, millions of people anxiously wait for one big announcement: Who will perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show? Will it be a cultural moment in time? Will it be a throwback? Will Taylor Swift finally take the stage? (Okay, it’s probably just me asking that question.)

And with that, millions of eyes have been on Pepsi as the main sponsor of the performance for the past decade. Not only did that give Pepsi the opportunity to brand the event itself but all the lead-up to the event as well.

On every announcement, every social media post and the hashtag itself, Pepsi was front and center. They brought us moments like JLo, Adam Levine and of course the millennial throwback of Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre this past Super Bowl.

Did Pepsi make the right decision to walk away? Or will the brand suffer setbacks with key audiences? Will Pepsi be left unscathed by removing its endorsement from one of the most talked-about cultural moments of the year?

What will they miss?

The opportunity to reach those who cannot wait to hear if one of their favorite artists will be performing. The opportunity for branding all those moments leading up to the big night as potential viewers await any hints about the upcoming performance, including the spots that the artists share.

They’ll miss the opportunity to own a moment (good or bad) with all eyes are on their name and brand during the Big Game—that’s not always guaranteed during the game itself, but most people want to see the Halftime Show, football fan or not.

What won’t they miss?

Surely they will be saving more than a few dollars by pulling out as the sponsor. And by that, we are talking about $40-50 million that they are now adding back into their marketing budget.

Now more than ever, brands must use their dollars wisely, show a return on advertising and target the right people. So yes, while you do reach a wide variety of audiences with the Big Game, it’s not always the people that you were hoping to target. Sounds like Pepsi might use this as an opportunity to put those dollars in the right place.

Yes, the Big Game is an opportunity. But it’s important for brands and clients not to forget about the opportunities on the “second screen,” which for the last few years have become just as important as what happens during the Big Game on the main screen. Moments for TikTok challenges, Twitter exchanges or Instagram Lives will give Pepsi, like other brands, the chance to take a risk, target their audience and even test various creative opportunities.

And the great thing about second screen moments? Lower cost, more options for creative freedom and the chance to really live your brand’s values. We all know how important it is to align your brand with the values of your consumer, and the NFL and Super Bowl are not always the right alignment.

While the Pepsi partnership gave us plenty of memories, I am sure that Pepsi will continue to find placements that make the most sense for the brand, stay involved and still make that impact and splash every brand wants to make when it comes to the game in February. It will be exciting to see how they use their second screen opportunities.

And in the meantime, we all get to guess: Who takes over that sponsorship next?