Rapper Nicki Minaj Tapped to Pitch Pepsi

PepsiCo Inc. PEP +0.14% plans to kick off its first global marketing campaign for Pepsi-Cola next month in an effort to revitalize its flagship brand, said people familiar with the situation.

The beverage and snack-food giant has enlisted rap star Nicki Minaj to be part of its new marketing, the people said. Ms. Minaj, known in part for her colorful collection of wigs, performed with Madonna during the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl.

The new ad push could carry the tagline: “Live for Now,” although the company is still testing the idea, and it could be changed, they added.

While the first phase of the campaign hits the U.S. in April, the overseas phase is expected to be rolled out over the course of 18 months, according to a person familiar with the situation. A TV ad featuring Ms. Minaj will air only in the U.S. this year, the person said.

The new ad effort is part of a broader push by PepsiCo, which is based in Purchase, N.Y., to reinvigorate its beverage business, which in recent years has lost market share to rival Coca-Cola Co. KO +1.58% Diet Coke overtook Pepsi-Cola in 2010 as the second-biggest selling cola brand in the U.S., behind regular Coke.

Investors and bottlers have been critical of the lack of ad support that the company has put behind some of PepsiCo’s brands, particularly Pepsi-Cola.

The company has said it will increase marketing outlays by as much as $600 million this year, an increase of 15% to 20% from 2011. It says that money will be spent on a dozen global brands, including Lay’s potato chips, the Gatorade sports drink and Pepsi-Cola.

Pepsi-Cola’s new marketing strategy, according to two executive involved in the effort, is about creating ads that capture the excitement of “now” and “being timely.” The company has a long history of tying up with performers such as Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Ray Charles.

As part of its new strategy, Pepsi will broaden its marketing to include “people who define the now” such as well-known disc jockeys, other celebrities and artists, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Ad agencies helping Pepsi craft its ad campaign include Omnicom Group Inc.’s OMC -0.28% TBWA Chiat/Day and BBDO.

Pepsi is looking at every aspect of Pepsi-Cola’s marketing, including redesigning packaging, although it will be some time before consumers see a new look, the person said.

The company has already taken steps to add new pop to Pepsi-Cola. It returned to the Super Bowl last month after a three-year hiatus. Last year it more than doubled its U.S. ad spending on its flagship brand to $43.2 million, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media. But its ad outlays still lagged the $93 million spent by Coke, as well as the $114.5 million the company spent on the Pepsi-Cola brand in 2005, Kantar said.

Over the past two years “consumer’s perception of Pepsi-Cola has been declining,” said Anne Rivers, director of brand strategy at BrandAsset Consulting, a New York branding firm owned by WPP PLC. WPPGY -0.18%

BrandAsset’s research, which includes surveying 17,000 consumers every quarter, shows that Coke is regarded as more “daring” and “energetic” than Pepsi, a reversal from several years ago.

Crafting the new ad effort hasn’t been without problems. PepsiCo had hoped to host a big event with Ms. Minaj in New York’s Times Square next month but had to scrap the plan because Ms. Minaj was doing a similar event at that location for cellphone maker Nokia Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for Nokia declined to comment.

The new campaign is being led by Brad Jakeman, PepsiCo’s president of global enjoyment brands & chief creative officer, a well-respected marketing executive who has worked for marketers such as Activision Blizzard Inc. ATVI +0.63% and Macy’s Inc. M -0.27%

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Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty (born December 8, 1982), known professionally as Nicki Minaj is a Trinidadian-born American rapper, singer, and songwriter.
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