Feb 6, 2024 - Business

Starry gains ground on Sprite in lemon-lime soda battle

Cartoon Starry mascots on both side of hip hop artist Ice Spice

Hip hop star Ice Spice is featured in Starry's first Super Bowl ad with the soda's mascots Lem and Lime. Photo: Courtesy of PepsiCo

Starry — Pepsi's new Sprite alternative — has already racked up more sales in its first year than its predecessor Sierra Mist had in its last four years combined, company execs shared with Axios.

Why it matters: America's largest food company is making the latest move in the ongoing lemon-lime soda wars with its Starry Super Bowl commercial debut Sunday.

  • Starry replaced Sierra Mist in January 2023 after years of declining sales and failing to compete with Coca-Cola's Sprite.

The big picture: The Super Bowl is one of the few major TV events that draws a huge audience, making advertising around the event extremely valuable. The commercials themselves can drive viewership for the big game.

  • 60% of Super Bowl viewers looking forward to the ads, a Numerator survey of 1,119 consumers found.

Zoom in: In an exclusive interview with Axios, PepsiCo officials shared the food and beverage giant's strategy behind its trio of ads this year, which also include a commercial for Doritos Dinamita and MTN DEW Baja Blast.

  • Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Beverage North America, said the company has found its Super Bowl ads are most effective when the ads are about a new product or "saying something new about it."
  • "In Starry's case, it's pretty simple. We just want people who haven't heard of it or who haven't tried it to be aware of it and to try it," Lyons told Axios of the ad featuring Ice Spice. "For a new brand, what a great platform to get the awareness."
  • Brett O'Brien, chief marketing officer of Frito Lay North America, said advertising during the Super Bowl is a "great way to introduce the product, get people to try it and get it on people's minds."

By the numbers: 90% of America has not tried Starry yet and "slightly under 50% of people" are aware of the soda, Lyons told Axios.

  • The brand had more than a half billion dollars in sales in its first year, Lyons said.
  • The new soda is the third most popular lemon line soda in the U.S., data provided by PepsiCo shows, and is behind Coca-Cola's Sprite and Keurig Dr Pepper's 7Up.

Context: Last year's Super Bowl drew 113 million viewers across digital and traditional TV platforms, making it the most-watched Super Bowl since 2017.

  • This year, the audience is expected to be larger thanks to the Taylor Swift effect, which has provided a ratings bump for the NFL this season.

Between the lines: Brands that advertised during the Super Bowl saw a 6.4% increase in demand after the game last year, according to research from behavioral research company Veylinx.

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