September 15, 2020

By Ana Ceppi

This week most of America is celebrating the beginning of the NFL season… I am still thinking about Superbowl LIV.  I attended to witness the Pepsi half time show.. well beyond the JLo/Shakira athleticism and intoxicating performance; I was there to celebrate the culmination of a business decision that took place 2 years before.

In 2019 the marketing cola wars were “typical”.  Coca Cola reportedly outspending Pepsi and Pepsi “big” visible play was partnering with the NFL to do an Atlanta marketing takeover (Coca Cola’s home town) for Superbowl.  

But in that same year, Pepsi quietly and purposely established a Hispanic Business Unit, with their own sales, marketing, product and P&L center.

This was a marketplace first. No other company in the USA had ever established a separate unit for Hispanic growth.  

A business unit whose entire purpose was to grow market share amongst Hispanics… not a Center of Excellence/Summer Intern Project/Extracurricular activity… not a marketing tactic, but a separate profit center.  Hispanic customer acquisition and growth was a company “Big Bet” for Pepsi and not a “business as usual” spots and dots effort.

For those of us who followed the “breadcrumbing” of establishing the business unit, it took 2 Latinos in executive leadership positions to say “yes”… Ramon Laguarta (new PepsiCo CEO) and Cesar Conde (Board Member).  Sponsorship from a remarkable leader in Greg Lyons (CMO Pepsi Beverages North America) and Marissa Solis (VP/General Manager Pepsi at the time) who lead the way.  

Growing a share point in beverages is remarkable for the challenger brand… particularly one that has inconsistently courted the Hispanic market… yet the business case was irrefutable…  Hispanics have driven double digit (+10%) growth of Carbonated Drink sales for the past 5 years ( vs -2% for Non-Hispanics) and they are more loyal (38% vs 29%) to the brand they drink.  The Business unit sought to steal share from their competitor and take the sales leadership position for the segment. The all Latino team developed unique POP materials; Latinix concerts featuring CNCO, advertising featuring Lionel Messi and John Leguizamo and the final touch was the Super Bowl.  The Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show took over all social conversations for weeks and earned 4 Emmy nominations.

The business results are so clear, that Coca Cola just brought Alfredo Rivera to be North America president.  And now let the cola wars begin in Español.  

About the author: Ana Ceppi is a marketing executive who looks to accelerate business growth by creating demand in unseen and elusive marketing opportunities.  She is the winner of 2019’s Imagen Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment; is Co-Chair of the Data and Measurement committee for the ANA AIIM and holds 5 Effie’s.

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