Back on December 12th, I broke the news about a Cola War between Coke and Pepsi raging over Simon Cowell’s new U.S. version of The X Factor coming to Fox this fall. And I tipped that Pepsi was leading. Now that sponsorship battle has been won by Pepsi, according to an announcement just made by Fox Broadcasting Company, Cowell’s Syco Television, and FremantleMedia North America today. “The comprehensive sponsorship of The X Factor by Pepsi includes an extensive, multi-platform off-air marketing partnership; weekly in-show integrations and placements; and an immersive content experience online. Pepsi will be the exclusive beverage sponsor of THE X FACTOR both on and off-air,” the announcement states.
Obviously all those scandals affecting the UK version of Cowell’s The X Factor talent show didn’t scare away advertisers for the American version. I heard there was a $50 million to $100 million auction going on between Coke and Pepsi. Coca-Cola has been a longtime sponsor of Fox’s American Idol; it got in on the ground floor for less than $10 million. That was a bargain based on ratings that were off the charts for the 12-week program, beating network promises by about 10% and capturing 23 million viewers for the closing finale. The soft drink company has one year left on its Idol contract and it made sense that Coke would want to jump on The X Factor bandwagon as well. But even though I heard Coke was offering more money, my sources said Cowell et al thought Pepsi would make a better fit. And he said so today. “I am absolutely delighted Pepsi is going to be our partner for The X Factor in America,” Cowell officially announced. “It feels like the perfect fit, and I love their ambition and excitement.”
Because of doubts about American Idol‘s format, Pepsi passed on a multimillion-dollar sponsorship when the show was still an unknown in the early stages when dealmakers were trying to have more of the show’s expenses underwritten. Pepsi didn’t want to make that mistake again. Not to mention that different sponsors would help The X Factor brand itself a new identity on Fox in the U.S. market outside of Idol’s shadow. No matter, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is convinced that with both a reworked Idol kicking off this month and a transplated X Factor, Fox could have a banner 2011. Unless America is just saturated with talent contest shows. That’s not the case in Britain where Cowell’s UK version of The X Factor enjoyed its biggest season to date despite of, or because of, the constant controversies. Meanwhile, Fox is said to have earmarked a whopping $35 million to promote the launch of The X-Factor next fall.
“The X Factor’s move to the U.S. is important because it’s about real excellence in music; from the selection of the artists, the development of their performances and the music they ultimately produce,” Frank Cooper, Chief Consumer Engagement Officer of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, explained in today’s announcement. “When you combine those elements with Pepsi’s own deep heritage in music and focus on advancing popular music, you have a powerful partnership that benefits artists, fans and music culture.”
“We are thrilled to welcome a beloved, innovative brand like Pepsi to The X Factor family,” said Peter Rice, the Chairman of Entertainment for Fox Networks Group in today’s statement. “Throughout its history, Pepsi has been known for being unique, fun and refreshing – and that is exactly the type of talent that The X Factor celebrates.”
“The best partnerships are always the most organic ones, and we feel a strong creative fit between Pepsi’s brand positioning and The X Factor,” said Keith Hindle, CEO Americas, FremantleMedia Enterprises. “The scale of Pepsi’s ambition for the show is as high as ours, so this is a great opportunity to further build the brand together in the U.S.”