Bruno Mars has some tough acts to follow at Sunday’s Super Bowl. Besides taking midfield as the half-time performer, the singer will draw attention elsewhere in the telecast. Bruno Mars is the latest in a line of Super Bowl half-time acts touting Pepsi drinks in a commercial, which will also air during the game.
While most people still talk about her fantastic mid-game performance, Beyoncé, last year’s halftime star, also starred in a Pepsi advertising campaign that aired during the telecast.
Michael Jackson’s appearance in 1993 was actually the start of a marked change in the Super Bowl telecast. Half-time shows in previous decades featured marching bands and themes like “Salute to the Big Band Era.” Jackson put on a concert. It was also in the early 1990s that iconic commercials began airing during the Super Bowl. Both Jackson and the advertisements were heavily discussed in offices the next day. This was Jackson in his heyday, moonwalking and singing “Billie Jean” during the halftime act and in the commercial.
Since that time, the Super Bowl halftime act has typically been a top-selling artist with appeal to a broad fan base. The National Football League (NFL) has wavered between appealing to the below-40 demographics sought by most advertisers and long-time NFL fans over age 40. Mars recognized he only appealed to the former, so he played to the older crowd by asking the over-40-year-old Red Hot Chili Peppers to join him onstage.
The overlap between Bruno Mars serving as the latest halftime act touting soda makes sense for Pepsi and for the NFL, if the goal is appealing to a young international audience. At 28 years-old, Mars’ career has been growing steadily. Billboard Magazine’s 2013 Artist of the Year, Mars has sold more than 130 million singles worldwide and had 22 hits reach the top 100 charts. Born Peter Hernandez, Mars also adds international cross-cultural appeal as the son of a Puerto Rican-Jewish father and a Filipino mother.
Other Super Bowl acts have recorded Pepsi commercials that aired during the Super Bowl. The spots did not always air the same year the artist appeared at halftime, but were within a few years and designed to capitalize on the artists’ appeal. These included Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. One exception is Madonna, who was featured in a Pepsi campaign in her heyday, but she did not star in a halftime extravaganza for another 24 years and into her 50’s.
More seasoned Super Bowl halftime performers have not been featured Pepsi campaigns. It would be hard to picture Pepsi making advertising deals with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Who or other older acts that have rocked the stadium crowds in previous years. While they might allow a song to be used in a television spot, they are not likely to film one, largely because of their age.
This year’s performer clearly wants to follow in Jackson’s footsteps. Bruno Mars’ commercial touting Pepsi reportedly includes his song “Locked Out of Heaven,” and it is likely his Super Bowl halftime act will include that song off his latest album, too. While Beyoncé is a tough act to follow, Mars and Pepsi are ready for the challenge.
By Dyanne Weiss