A significant new element to Pepsi's sponsorship of " The X Factor" has raised the stakes for contestants on the Fox singing competition show: The soft-drink giant says it will feature the winner in a Pepsi TV ad that will air during next year's Super Bowl.
The prospect of being promoted in front of a massive U.S. prime-time audience burnishes the appeal of the show's already formidable prize package, the centerpiece of which is a Sony Music/Syco Music recording contract that the label says is valued at $5 million. In addition, Irving Azoff's Front Line Management says it will manage the show's winner and finalists.
Pepsi will cover the cost of producing and paying for the 30-second spot, which will air during Super Bowl XLVI on NBC on Feb. 5.
"We've effectively doubled the prize at least, but I would say it's something that money can't even buy," says Frank Cooper III, PepsiCo's chief marketing officer of global consumer engagement. "No record company's going to spend that kind of money on a Super Bowl ad, definitely not for a new artist. Even for an established artist, they're going to think long and hard before they do that."
In a statement, Syco founder Simon Cowell said, "We've put our money where our mouth is, and now Pepsi has raised the bar to a level never before seen."
The new prize offering also points to the manner in which Cowell, who left "American Idol" to focus on the Syco-owned "X Factor," taking a page from the "Idol" playbook in terms of its use of season-long corporate sponsors.
"American Idol" counts Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ford as season-long sponsors, a roster that the U.S. version of "The X Factor" appears set to match thanks to sponsorship deals with Pepsi, Sony Electronics and Chevrolet. In the States, sponsorships are typically contracted on a year-to-year basis, with the incumbent brand given the right of first refusal.
Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America will produce "The X Factor" in the United States.
"We have been fortunate to secure a number of very high-profile partners for 'The X Factor' on a level that is unprecedented for a first-season show," says Amy Lorbati, senior VP of branded entertainment and partnerships at FremantleMedia Enterprises. "In addition to Pepsi, fans can expect to see exciting multiplatform activations from Chevrolet and Sony Electronics."
Cooper says Pepsi will have a role in setting up challenges within the show and will create a game element to reward active viewers with access to special content and additional experiences.
Exactly what form the ad will take is still being determined. Cooper says Pepsi will solicit public input in much the same way that PepsiCo did with other recent initiatives, such as its "DEWmocracy" campaign, in which consumers voted for a new flavor and color for a new Mountain Dew beverage.
"We're going to engage consumers in every aspect of it," Cooper says of the Super Bowl spot. "So if we're looking at the stylist or the choreographer or we're making critical decisions along the way, we're going to invite consumers in to collaborate with us."
Pepsi Max is the official soft drink of the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Its "Can Thrower" spot was one of the most buzzed-about ads on this year's Super Bowl telecast.
After years of musical acts using the Super Bowl halftime show and its pregame festivities to promote tours and new albums, the 2012 Super Bowl will be a page-turner for musical competitions. Besides showcasing the "X Factor" winner, NBC's telecast of the game will be followed by the second-season debut of "The Voice" in one of the most coveted time slots of the year.
"The X Factor" has been the United Kingdom's top-rated program for the last seven years, peaking with an audience of 21 million for its 2010 finale. The format has been a hit in 15 territories and its producers boast of having a worldwide audience of more than 100 million viewers.
Cooper credits the show's success in the United Kingdom to Cowell's "ability to tell a story, his ability to create dynamic tension along the way and his openness to allowing a brand to come in and partner with him in ways to create new experiences."