By Mar 01, 2002

There will be no “Joy of Pepsi” in hyperspace this time around.

Pepsi-Cola Co. has opted to forgo any marketing activity connected to the May 16 release of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.

The news is a shocker considering that Somers, NY-based parent PepsiCo. promised $2 billion in marketing support in 1996 to gain exclusive promotional rights to the next three Star Wars films for its three operating divisions: Pepsi-Cola Co., Frito-Lay, and Tricon Global Restaurants. (The Tricon division was spun off in 1997.)

What’s also surprising is that Pepsi was able to make its decision — which must have been made almost one year ago — without causing any commotion until a few months before the film’s release: Information on marketing plans for Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace in 1999 practically received Watergate-level treatment from the media (May 1999 PROMO).

To be sure, results from those massive campaigns did not meet what were exceedingly high expectations. While Frito-Lay executives offered praise for their Phantom tie-in (October 1999 PROMO), the company’s summer 2000 Magic in the Bag effort — which borrowed no outside equity — produced better results at half the cost.

Meanwhile, the brass at Tricon, Louisville, KY, was blunt in expressing its displeasure for a $50 million campaign that sought to unite the KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut chains for the first time. The chain didn’t wait long to divorce itself from the next two films.

Purchase, NY-based Pepsi-Cola played it middle of the road, expressing satisfaction for sales that initially rose 6.7 percent but dropped before the overall effort ended. At the time, the beverage maker gave no inkling that future tie-ins were even open for debate.

What’s Left

Pepsi’s departure leaves Frito-Lay and newcomer General Mills as the only two Clones partners. “We really wanted to utilize the experience of our partners [targeting] kids and make sure we could engage them, rather than having promotional partners blasting out to everyone,” says Jim Ward, senior vp-marketing at Lucasfilm, Nicasio, CA. “The last film was broader [promotionally].”

Plano, TX-based Frito-Lay is reportedly building a huge on-pack game called Find the Hero that will unite all key brands. “Frito-Lay did a phenomenal job with us last time,” praises Ward.

Minneapolis-based General Mills reportedly is bringing cereal, yogurt, and fruit-snack brands to its party, details of which were unavailable at press time.

Filling the Clones void at Pepsi is a six-week on-pack effort dubbed Find Cool Cans — Get Hot Tickets. The instant-win game will award tickets to a variety of entertainment events including Britney Spears concerts, NASCAR races, and Major League Baseball games.

Select 12- and 24-packs of Pepsi, Pepsi One, Wild Cherry, Twist, Mountain Dew, and Lipton Brisk products will contain one “cool can” sporting a toll-free number consumers call to learn what they’ve won. Radio spots and P-O-P displays support. TLP, Wilton, CT, is promo agency of record.

Adding insult to the Star Wars injury is the fact that tickets to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s July release of Men in Black II are part of the prize pool.

Betting on Black

The sequel to the highest grossing film of 1997 opens July 3 with an impressive partner roster that, in addition to Pepsi, features Burger King, Mercedes-Benz, Sprint PCS, Ray-Ban, and Hamilton Watches.

What may prove to be Mercedes’ biggest film tie-in ever will be used to introduce the redesigned E Class sedan and includes product placement that puts stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones into a Benz (the twosome drove a Ford in the first film). The tie-in also includes a toy Mercedes that will be produced by Los Angeles-based Sony’s consumer products division. It’s the first time Mercedes has granted a toy license.