PepsiCo’s Messi World Cup Ad ‘Toes Line’ as FIFA Protects Rights

PepsiCo Inc. isn’t going to let Coca-Cola Co. rule soccer’s World Cup tournament this year in Brazil.

Coke’s (KO) relationship with soccer governing body FIFA is in its fifth decade, yet Pepsi, the world’s largest snack-maker, is planning its biggest-ever soccer campaign, featuring Argentine star Lionel Messi among its key performers.

“It’s the first time we’ve rolled out a global football campaign to this magnitude,” Kristin Patrick, Pepsi’s global chief marketing officer, said in a telephone interview. “It’s in 130 countries, and also we have a large body of content from television, short films, digital content. We have events happening every single month leading to up to the summer.”

Patrick said the company has “toed the line” over what it can and can’t do without being an official sponsors. The center-piece of its campaign is an ad set in a Rio slum that features Messi and other stars who’ll compete at the World Cup, including England’s Jack Wilshere, Brazil’s David Luiz, Sergio Ramos of Spain and Netherlands striker Robin van Persie.

Companies paid $404 million in 2013 in return for the rights to be exclusive World Cup sponsors. The income is a vital part of Zurich-based FIFA’s revenue and the soccer body aggressively protects its income with rules to protect partners.

“If anyone could use the Official Marks for free and create an association with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, there would be no reason to become a rights holder and as a result FIFA would be unable to secure the funding necessary to stage the event,” FIFA said on its website.

‘Little Odd’

Pepsi’s advertising campaign took almost two years to bring together, Patrick said. It doesn’t use the words World Cup, 2014 or Brazil, although featuring a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” performed by Janelle Monae it follows a boy as he journeys through a Rio de Janeiro favela, or slum, and comes across a succession of soccer stars on his way. Not shooting the spot in Brazil wouldn’t have made sense, according to Patrick.

“We are tracing what’s happening in terms of what football fans are interested in and you know all eyes are on Brazil this year,” Patrick said. “It would seem a little odd to do something on another country this year. It’s kind of based on what football fans are interested in and I think we toe the line.”

Pepsi has been investing in soccer for 15 years. Previous campaigns have included David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in Rio de Janeiro at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net Peter-Joseph Hegarty

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