PepsiCo Looks to Dead Pop Star Jackson to Revive Flagship

PepsiCo Looks to Dead Pop Star Jackson to Revive Flagship Brand
Pepsi Co. products sit on display in a supermarket in New York. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

PepsiCo Inc., which just unveiled a “Live for Now” marketing campaign to revive its flagship Pepsi-Cola, is looking to a dead pop star -- Michael Jackson -- to generate buzz.

The world’s second-largest soft-drink maker will plaster Jackson’s image on 1 billion Pepsi cans in 20 countries, starting in China on May 5, Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo said in a statement. A deal with the estate of Jackson, who died of a drug overdose in 2009, will include music, live events and merchandise to flog Pepsi-Cola, which has lost market share to Coca-Cola.

Jackson was the face of Pepsi-Cola at the zenith of his fame. The relationship was marred in 1984 when stage pyrotechnics set his hair on fire during a commercial shoot, severely burning the singer. PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi said earnings may fall this year as she boosts marketing spending for key brands by $600 million.

“Pepsi has always been at the forefront of pop culture,” said Brad Jakeman, president of global enjoyment brands, in a statement. “This unique global partnership, around such a legendary music milestone, invites Pepsi fans from around the world to experience Michael Jackson’s music in an engaging and very now kind of way.”

The Jackson campaign coincides with the 25th anniversary of the songwriter’s Bad album, which went multiplatinum and spawned a global tour that broke attendance records.

On April 30, Pepsi announced its first global marketing campaign, called “Live for Now.” Ads featuring pop singer Nicki Minaj will air May 7 in the U.S., the company’s largest beverage market, before being distributed globally this year.

PepsiCo rose 0.1 percent to $66.91 at the close in New York. The shares are little changed this year. Last week, PepsiCo reiterated its forecast that earnings per share excluding some costs and foreign-currency effects would decline 5 percent this year and grow at a high-single digit percentage rate starting next year.

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