Pepsi sends in the big guns as Diet Coke becomes the No. 2 soft drink


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In the clash of the colas, reinforcements are on the way.

New industry data, to be released Thursday, is expected to show that Diet Coke surpassed Pepsi in 2010 in U.S. sales among sparkling sodas, knocking Pepsi to the No. 3 spot from No. 2 -- a stunning fall from grace. Coca-Cola Co. has maintained the top perch in the $74-billion-a-year soft drink industry.

“We’re not happy. We would obviously like to be No. 1,” said Massimo d’Amore, chief executive of PepsiCo Beverages Americas. ‘We want to reclaim the place that belongs to this company.’


Pepsi’s latest weapon: Simon Cowell’s new talent contest ‘X Factor’ that will debut on the Fox network this fall. Pepsi is spending more than $60 million to sponsor the show, a package that includes advertisements and product integrations woven into the program.

For Pepsi, sponsorship of ‘X Factor’ is intended to help ease lingering pain over passing on the sponsorship of ‘American Idol’ to archrival Coca-Cola nine years ago. “Our people, at the time, did not see how big “American Idol” was going to be. We lost a lot of momentum and the competition gained it,” D’Amore said.

Last fall, Cowell picked Pepsi to be the sponsor of ‘X Factor,’ in part, to ratchet up the competition between his new show, ‘X Factor,’ and the show he helped build into a juggernaut, ‘American Idol,’ which continues to be sponsored by Coke.

That makes the two talent competition shows the latest foot soldiers in the 110-year cola wars.

‘Bring it on,’ Cowell said in an interview from his London home. ‘I love it.’

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-- Meg James