As Pepsi’s VP-marketing, consumer engagement, Adam Harter leads sports, entertainment and music strategy for Pepsi’s American beverages, overseeing the company’s relationships with tentpoles like the Grammys, NFL, the MLB and the MTV Video Music Awards.
Since 2013, Pepsi has also been the title sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show, amplifying the performances of previous spokeswoman Beyonce and 2014 headliner Bruno Mars. Pepsi is also one of the largest advertisers during the Super Bowl, spending an annual average of $15.3 million during the telecast over the last five years, according to Kantar Media.
The road to booking the Super Bowl starts as early as the Grammys and heats up toward the summer touring season, when Harter weighs in on artist suggestions from the NFL’s Sarah Moll and halftime producer Ricky Kirshner. Pepsi’s role can be active (Beyonce starred in a 2013 global ad campaign for the brand that premiered her song “Grown Woman”) or passive (Mars licensed his song “Locked Out of Heaven” for a Super Bowl preview spot and his likeness for a limited-edition Pepsi can), depending on artist relationships.
In the case of 2015 performer Katy Perry, the brand had a long history with the “Roar” singer, from co-hosting the 2012 premiere of her Part of Me concert film, to supporting her 2013 VMA performance under the Brooklyn Bridge and the premiere of PRISM single “Dark Horse.”
On the eve of Pepsi’s third halftime show, Harter speaks about re-teaming with Perry, evaluating other performers (not so fast, Taylor Swift), and the prospects of a halftime renewal once its deal expires in 2016.
?Why did Katy Perry make sense for this year’s halftime?
We have a long history with Katy Perry, and she’s someone that has always been on brand for us: She’s incredibly positive, very high-energy and has an optimistic point of view. She’s someone that embodies the mind-set that Pepsi strives for. We’ve always seen her as a great fit, and she is no doubt an amazing artist — not to mention the most-followed person on Twitter. The ability to tap into that fanbase and social network was really appealing. She’s also creative. We knew that she would take a very unique approach to the show and the performance itself that we thought was worthy of the halftime show stage.
Does playing the halftime show imply or require a formal endorsement of Pepsi from an artist — why or why not?
The way we look at it, any Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show performer, we see them as a marketing partner. We look at this as Pepsi and an iconic music artist combining forces to deliver the most-anticipated, entertaining and talked-about musical performance of the year. Our fates are intrinsically tied to delivering an unbelievable halftime Super Bowl performance. So that’s why we devote our resources into helping them bring their vision for their performance to life and helping consumers engage in that road to the Super Bowl.
Might you do more with Katy in 2015 and beyond, a la Beyonce?
Katy Perry is one of those artists that will always be top of mind for us as we roll out our music platforms. We’re all huge Katy Perry fans, but it’s to be determined where we go next. I have no doubt we’ll see other opportunities in the future. She is among the best in terms of collaboration. The content that we’ve developed with her literally came from Katy’s mind. She developed the concept, picked the director, she was personally involved in all of it. And honestly, everything she touched she made it better.
When vetting talent, how crucial is an artist’s relationship with a competing beverage brand for consideration. — i.e., could Taylor Swift, a Diet Coke spokesperson, ever be considered under Pepsi’s sponsorship?
For a performance as big as the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show, every major artist is in the consideration set. I think competitive relationships are one thing to be considered, but there’s several other elements that we look at as well. It’s not [a categorical no].
Pepsi’s halftime deal with the NFL is up for renewal in 2016. Based on the last three years’ performances, how are you feeling about the partnership thus far?
We see our Super Bowl halftime partnership as a success. We are continually evaluating the ROI on this as well as all of our sponsorships. We still have two more halftime shows to deliver as part of this deal, so we’re 100 percent focused on that right now, especially with next year being the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. And that also takes place at Levi’s Stadium, home to one of our most valued partners in the San Francisco 49ers. So not only do we have a Super Bowl halftime to deliver [this weekend], we have another major performance next year that we’re focused on right now.