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A 5-minute ritual helps this Pepsi executive stay calm while managing million-dollar Super Bowl commercials, halftime show

Cardi B films a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi.
Source: PepsiCo

This year, the biggest companies in the world will spend a record $5.6 million for a 30-second spot during the most-watched television event of the year: Super Bowl LIV.

The decision-makers behind these commercials have the task of capturing the attention of more than 100 million viewers with every second.

Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Beverages North America, has overseen 12 Super Bowl commercials in his 20 years of experience with the brand. His recent work has included high-profile spots like Pepsi's "More Than OK" concept with celebrities Cardi B and Lil Jon riffing on their signature catchphrase, as well as 2018's Mountain Dew and Doritos collaboration featuring Peter Dinklage, Busta Rhymes, Morgan Freeman and Missy Elliot.

"Doing Super Bowl programming is definitely high-stress work," Lyons tells CNBC Make It, noting that such projects are both high risk and high reward. This year, Lyons oversaw six game-time commercials for brands including Pepsi, Doritos and SodaStream. Pepsi also sponsors the game's halftime show.

"I'll admit, it's a tad stressful," Lyons says. However, the seasoned executive has one new ritual that's helped ease the pressure this year: "One of my New Year's resolutions was to meditate for five minutes every morning, and that honestly seems to be helping," he says.

Meditation refers to the practice of using mindfulness (or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity) to train attention and reach a mentally and emotionally calm state.

Lyons is in good company of leaders who turn to meditation on a daily basis. Everyone from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey to Beyonce claim their meditation routines help manage stress, improve creativity and boost energy.

The likes of Oprah and Lady Gaga have also credited Transcendental Meditation as a practice that has enhanced their lives. This type of meditation is a proprietary practice taught by certified teachers and requires sitting for 20 minutes twice a day while repeating a mantra.

Billionaire Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio wrote in his book "Principles" that Transcendental Meditation "has enhanced my open-mindedness, higher-level perspective, equanimity and creativity. It helps slow things down so that I can act calmly, even in the face of chaos, just like a ninja in a street fight."

To be sure, in addition to turning inward to minimize the pressures of his Super Bowl work, Lyons also credits the extensive research and hard work done by his teams to create a successful advertising experience. "Having a good process with robust testing in place takes a lot of the guesswork and stress out of it," he says.

As chief marketing officer for PepsiCo's beverage division, Lyons leads a team of over 500 marketers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to promote sodas, waters, teas, energy and ready-to-drink coffee drink products. Lyons oversees the work of both Pepsi's internal marketing teams as well as the advertising agencies they partner with.

It's crucial that people who want to work on anything related to the Super Bowl understand and embrace the high-pressure environment, Lyons adds.

"It's a lot of work and takes a lot of time to do it well," the executive explains. "That shouldn't discourage anyone, because the payoff is amazing, fun and incredibly rewarding. It's just about going in eyes wide open."

Throughout the year, but around the Super Bowl especially, the executive says he's learned the importance of aligning stakeholders early in the process of creating an ad campaign and maintaining strong, transparent lines of communication throughout.

According to executive creative directors Ricardo Casal and Juan Javier Peña Plaza, who work for boutique ad agency Gut, major companies generally begin working on Super Bowl commercials in March or April the year prior to the game. Ad agencies will conceptualize and pitch them a commercial idea, and companies will make a selection of which commercial to produce by summer or fall.

Depending on concepts and budgets, commercials are generally finalized several weeks ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. Bryan Buckley, a filmmaker who has directed over 60 Super Bowl commercials, says he's been given as few as eight days to finish an ad for TV's biggest event of the year.

When it comes to Game Day, Lyons says he's usually unable to see the commercials he's worked on all year air in real-time.

"I watch the game in the stadium, usually sitting next to one of our top customers," Lyons says. "Everyone constantly tells me how lucky I am to go to the game, and they're right — I am lucky." That said, the executive says he sometimes wishes he could watch the game from his couch and enjoy the commercials with friends and a few choice Super Bowl snacks.

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