Can Superman Handle the Pepsi Challenge?

Recently Pepsico has been running banner ads on Yahoo promoting a contest connected with the soon to be released summer movie – Superman Returns.

The promotion is an ambitious integrated marketing program combining point of purchase, special packaging, event marketing such as the Pepsi 400 stock car race, merchandising of toys from Mattel, and a video game from Electronic Arts. The promotion is further complicated by inclusion of Pepsi’s brand portfolio including Mountain Dew and Lay’s potato chips. Not content with empty calories, the man of steel’s return will also be promoted by Pepsi’s Quaker and Tropicana products such as (and I am not making this up) Superman Crunch: Cap’n Crunch cereal with Superman shield shapes that turn milk blue and four cheese pasta Superman limited edition Pasta Roni.

Executing such a program may indeed require super powers, but will its effects founder on the kryptonite of confusion?

Of course, if the movie is a hit it would help clear the end aisle displays coming to a WalMart near you. Superman in formats ranging from comic books to multimedia has proven to be a durable franchise. The promotion could thus be viable independent of the success of the movie. It’s less plausible that the product promotion will help the movie.

What in the long run (let’s say the fourth quarter) does this do for the brands involved? How durable is the effect of being Superman’s official high fructose or diet or low trans-fat or high soluble fiber snack? Can Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew all be super quenchers? What about Gatoraid?

We suspect the campaign may have a positive ROI but not a positive EROSI (enduring return on sweat invested). Once the sweep stakes are over and the action figures are gathering dust, the market and mind shares of Pepsi’s brands will not have grown.