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Michael Jackson is back! Pepsi to use pop star to boost brand

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PepsiCo Inc. desperately needs some razzle dazzle to boost its brand. Who better to help than Michael Jackson, the music icon whose career made short work of attendance and album sales records?

So what if the King of Pop is no longer alive? The beverage brand, which has struggled to eclipse rival Coca Cola Co., is pairing with Sony Music and Jackson’s estate to roll out an exclusive campaign pegged to the 25th anniversary of the performer’s multiplatinum "Bad" album and tour.

One billion special edition soda cans featuring Jackson’s image will be sold around the world, Pepsi said. China will get the first batch, launching Saturday. Later this month, special-edition 16-ounce cans will be available in the U.S., followed by rollouts in Asia, South America and Europe.

The Pepsi campaign will also feature merchandise such as jackets inspired by the original "Bad" tour, new mixes of music from the album and chances to win tickets to performances of Cirque du Soleil’s "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour."

The star, who died in 2009, had a long history with Pepsi. He first starred in an ad campaign for the company with his brothers in 1983. The next year, while on set filming a Pepsi commercial, a pyrotechnics accident severely burned the singer.

Last month, Pepsi announced the launch of a massive global branding campaign that it’s calling “Live for Now.” The first round of ads, featuring pop celebrity Nicki Minaj, will start appearing Monday.

The company, which also owns brands such as Tropicana, Gatorade and Frito-Lay, said earlier this year that it would lay off 8,700 employees through 2014 to try to boost productivity. Beverage sales in the key North American market has been sliding. Pepsi's stock price has never managed to recoup its high from when Chief Executive Indra Nooyi first took leadership in 2007.

Pepsi also said it plans to boost its advertising and marketing budget by as much as $600 million this year.

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