Pepsi to Sponsor WB Music Show

Buyers warn of advertiser risk if show does poorly

Sponsors taking name ownership of sports broadcasting is commonplace. Then Coke became the first advertiser to get naming rights to a nonsports program. And with the summer debut of Pepsi Smash on The WB Network, Pepsi is now the second. While buyers like the idea, they caution that it can be risky.

The hour-long, six-week Pepsi Smash debuts July 16, featuring live performances by the likes of Beyoncé, Michelle Branch and Mya. In summer 2000, The WB aired the series Coca-Cola Presents the Young Americans, for which the soft drink maker spent a reported $6 million.

“Up to this point, our conversations for this type of sponsorship deal has been just for summer programming,” said The WB president Jed Petrick. “But with the growing cost of programming … these opportunities can be made available on a year-round basis.”

Petrick would not discuss the price tag. Pepsi and the network jointly own Pepsi Smash, and The WB sells the ad time. Pepsi is placing The WB logo on its bottles and cups.

Executives at CBS, ABC and Fox declined comment, but John Rash, chief broadcast negotiator at Campbell Mithun, said, “All the networks are interested in this, and at some point, we have talked about this with everyone.”

“You need to have a client that has a big enough budget to do it,” added Tim Spengler, evp and director of national broadcast for Initiative Media North America. “But all advertisers are trying to find ways to break through the clutter.”

Does a company’s name in a show title turn off other advertisers? “If a show does strong ratings, it doesn’t matter,” said Larry Kravitz, group buying director at Carat, who sees another problem. “What happens if the ratings are bad or the show is canceled, and you have all this money tied up in it? There is a lot of advertiser risk in this.”