By Barry Janoff
January 16, 2014: On Madison Avenue, they call it ambush marketing.
On Wall Street, they call it big business.
Pepsi has signed soccer star Lionel Messi, top U.S. player Clint Dempsey and 17 other players to comprise what the company called "our most impressive Pepsi football roster" ever in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup this June.
The athletes will be part of a multi-platform global campaign that takes direct aim at Pepsi rival Coca-Cola, which is an official marketing partner of FIFA and has marketing, branding and activation exclusivity in the category relating to FIFA and World Cup efforts.
Coke has had stadium advertising at every FIFA World Cup since 1950, has had a working relationship with FIFA since 1974 and became an official FIFA partner in 1978, according to the company.
The beverage brand said it is planning an all-encompassing marketing campaign that will lead up to and then include the games in Brazil. Coke has been lead sponsor for the FIFA World Cup trophy tour, and this week unveiled 18 commemorative mini-bottles that represent each of the nations that have previously hosted the FIFA World Cup.
But that has not stopped Pepsi from kicking in a multi-platform activation of its own. Marketing can include soccer players and talk about the tournament, but not include the words FIFA or World Cup, or use any official logos relating to the event, according for FIFA.
Pepsi said that the team lead by Messi, arguably the No. 1 soccer player in the world, has united to "inspire fans the world over to 'Live For Now' in 2014.
“Pepsi has had a tremendous relationship with football, going back nearly 15 years," Kristin Patrick, global CMO for PepsiCo Global Beverages Group, said in a statement. "For this, our latest incarnation, we’ve brought together our most impressive Pepsi football roster yet, comprised of players who truly embody our brand spirit and excite and electrify us every time they step on the pitch."
The team was unveiled via social media as Messi and the other players told their respective followers on Twitter and Facebook that the roster had been formed.
Under a year-long umbrella "Pepsi Football "campaign, the players will star in a global TV spot to be released to coincide with the FIFA World Cup and will be integrated into social media, music, art, and digital activations. Limited-edition packaging featuring many of the players will hit retail in March, according to Pepsi.
According to Messi, “Football has been my passion since I was a little boy and it’s certainly one of the things I live for now. I am so proud to be partnering with Pepsi again and representing the brand globally as part of this star-studded team."
"Our players know how to live for the moment, and throughout the year we’ll be collaborating with them to bring our fans exciting and engaging content, products and experiences — bringing fans closer to the game they love," said Pepsi's Patrick.
The players represent five continents and some 20 nations.
In addition to Messi (Argentina) and Dempsey, the roster includes Sergio Agüero (Argentina), Jack Wilshere (Great Britain), David Luiz (Brazil), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia), Tarik Elyounoussi (Norway), Maynor Figueroa (Honduras), Mario Gomez (Germany), Vincent Kompany (Belgium), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Victor Moses (Nigeria), Peter Osaze Odemwingie (Nigeria), Oribe Peralta (Mexico), Andriy Pyatov (Ukraine), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Gylfi Por Sigurðsson (Iceland).
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