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Pepsi’s Weeknd vs. Coke’s Polar Bear: Super Bowl LV Halftime Showdown

The 2021 Super Bowl halftime show was a battleground for cola supremacy, with Pepsi and Coke pulling out all the stops to win over viewers. Let’s break down the strategies and execution, and see who truly sipped the victor’s fizz:

Pepsi’s “The Weeknd Experience”:


  • Early Bird Gets the Show: Months before the Super Bowl, Pepsi secured The Weeknd as the headliner, capitalizing on his surging popularity and edgy, high-energy stage presence.
  • Building Buzz: Teaser videos and exclusive behind-the-scenes content dropped like hotcakes, fueling anticipation and speculation.
  • Collaborative Storytelling: The show’s narrative weaved The Weeknd’s personal journey with iconic Pepsi imagery, creating a cohesive brand experience.


  • Blinding Lights for Everyone: The stage transformed into a dazzling spectacle of lights, pyrotechnics, and dancers, mirroring The Weeknd’s signature aesthetic.
  • Guest Cameos for Pop and Surprise: Special appearances by Daft Punk and Abel Tesfaye’s real-life choir elevated the performance and generated social media buzz.
  • Emotional Connection: Vulnerability and raw emotion shone through in The Weeknd’s vocals, creating a deeper connection with the audience.

Coke’s “Polar Bear’s Big Game”:


  • Nostalgia is the New Black: Coke tapped into its beloved polar bear mascot, a familiar face with decades of Super Bowl history, to evoke a sense of comfort and connection.
  • Interactive Experience: Fans could vote on the bear’s Super Bowl outfit through social media, fostering engagement and anticipation.
  • Unexpected Collaborations: Partnering with brands like Doritos and Pringles, Coke aimed to create a broader Super Bowl snacking experience.


  • A Touch of Humor: The ad featured the polar bear playfully interacting with other brands and celebrities, injecting a dose of lightheartedness.
  • Cinematic Sweep: High-production value and stunning visuals transported viewers to a fantastical Super Bowl setting.
  • Focus on Community: The ad emphasized sharing and enjoying the big game with friends and family, aligning with Coke’s core values.

Who Won? It’s Complicated:

  • Pepsi Scored Big Ratings: With 101.1 million viewers, the Pepsi halftime show attracted the second-largest Super Bowl audience ever.
  • Coke Won the Social Media Game: Despite slightly lower viewership, Coke dominated social media conversations with their interactive campaign and nostalgic approach.
  • Ultimately, it’s a Tie: Both brands achieved their objectives; Pepsi grabbed attention with a high-octane performance, while Coke built loyalty with a familiar mascot and a focus on community.

The Takeaway:

The Super Bowl LV halftime show proved that winning the cola wars isn’t just about viewership. It’s about creating a memorable experience that resonates with the audience and aligns with each brand’s core values. While Pepsi took home the ratings trophy, Coke won hearts with its playful and nostalgic approach. In the end, the big winner was the audience, treated to two distinct and entertaining performances.

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