Pepsi beverages to take a pass on Super Bowl

A variety of soft drinks produced by Pepsico are seen on a kitchen counter in Golden, Colorado October 8, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc said it has decided against running TV commercials for its beverage brands in February’s Super Bowl, the first time in 23 years its drinks won’t be advertised during the event.

The decision is a major shift in marketing for the company, perennially among the Super Bowl’s top advertisers, sprinkling the broadcast with spots for brands like Pepsi, Pepsi Max and Gatorade. In the most recent Super Bowl, it purchased around 4 minutes of commercial time.

Even without Pepsi -- which still has plans to advertise its Doritos snack food during the football game -- commercial time for the February 7 game in Miami is nearly sold out. CBS Corp recently said that its broadcast network has about 90 percent of the spots available for the Super Bowl.

Prices have been running close to $3 million for 30 seconds of Super Bowl commercial time, a steep cost that a number of marketers are willing to spend for a chance to reach around 95 million U.S. viewers.

Pepsi’s decision clears the way for Anheuser-Busch InBev to hold the spot as top advertiser in the upcoming championship game.

Instead of the Super Bowl, Pepsi is concentrating on a cause-marketing campaign, in which it will provide grant money for community projects under a “Pepsi Refresh” tag.

Pepsi’s decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Richard Chang