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Coca-Cola Returns To Super Bowl In Showdown With Pepsi

The Super Bowl is known for its bitter rivalries. And this year, it won't just be the Chicago Bears facing off against Indianoplis Colts.

Coca-Cola is returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly a decade. The move puts it head-to-head with arch-rival PepsiCo , which continues its more than two-decade-long streak of advertising during the big game. Pepsi also is upping the ante by sponsoring this year's halftime show for the first time.

The Super Bowl offers the Atlanta-based Coke a chance build on the momentum it has created with its "Coke Side of Life" campaign, said Susan McDermott, a company spokeswoman.

“Coke realizes the Super Bowl is a hugely powerful media property,” said John Sicher, the editor of the industry trade newsletter Beverage Digest. “They are getting more aggressive with their marketing and advertising, and they now have an ad campaign for Coke that they are comfortable with.”

Experts estimate a half-minute spot will cost about $2.6 million, but neither company would disclose what they are spending on advertising during the game.

Worth the Price

Advertisers often view the rich price as worth it because the Super Bowl is usually the most-watched TV program of the year. Typically, it draws about 90 milllion viewers in the U.S. and it has become a tradition for many viewers to watch the game as much for the advertising as for the sport itself. In addition, the Super Bowls ads are also widely watched on the Internet following the game.

Coke debuted the "Coke Side of Life" ad campaign last year. "Video Game," which offers a "positive" twist on video game plots featuring characters causing mayhem, first aired during the season premiere of Fox's American Idol. Tonight, the company will debut "Happiness Factory", which provides a fanciful glimpse inside a Coca-Cola vendng machine.

Coke will develop a third ad specifically for the Super Bowl, which will air on Feb. 4 on CBS.

As part of its sponsorship, Pepsi plans to give away a jewel-encrusted Pepsi can valued at $100,000 as well as Super Bowl tickets for life.

Although the Purchase, N.Y., company's halftime sponsorship is aimed at promoting Pepsi's flagship brand, Pepsi hasn't yet disclosed if it will advertise any other soft drink brands with the rest of its air time. The company will advertise for 90 seconds in the first and second halfs of the game, spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said.

World's Largest Stage

“Very few advertisers are comfortable being on the worlds’ largest TV stage every year," Bradley said. "We thrive on the Super Bowl spotlight. It's been a part of our game plan for more than two decades.”

Both Coke and Pepsi have seen sales decline for its carbonated soft drinks. According to Beverage Digest, sales of the companies' two colas have fallen 4.8% in the first nine months of 2006 compared with the year-ago period.

Pepsi's Super Bowl efforts come as the company embarks on an effort to revive consumer interest in Pepsi-Cola by frequently changing the product's packaging.

This month, Pepsi has started using images of related to sports, music, fashion and cars that will change every few weeks. In total, the images on the cans and bottles are expected to be changed about 35 times this year, compared with 10 other previous changes to the package design over the past 109 years.

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