By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fans flocking to the Super Bowl in Arizona will see peculiar lights in the Friday night sky. No, it is not a UFO but part of Pepsi's invasion of host city Phoenix ahead of the big game.
The soda maker is aiming to recreate a mysterious 1997 UFO sighting over the city as part of its advertising campaign leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show with pop singer Katy Perry, which Pepsi is sponsoring.
Pepsi focused its Super Bowl promotions on the theme "strange things happen in the desert," an idea inspired by Arizona's long history of purported UFO sightings.
In 1997, thousands of people reported seeing a series of lights in a triangular formation over South Mountain for 106 minutes, an incident that remains unexplained.
On Friday night, Pepsi will light up the same area using balloon lights that will hover about 40 feet (12 meters) in the air and are expected to be visible for miles. The company scrapped an earlier plan for more intense lights in order to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations to prevent interference with air traffic, said Simon Lowden, chief marketing officer for Pepsi Americas Beverages.
Pepsi, a unit of snack and beverage maker PepsiCo Inc, is one of dozens of brands trying to maximize the impact of their TV commercials that will run during the game at a cost of up to $4.5 million for 30 seconds.
Earlier this week, Pepsi unveiled a giant crop circle in the shape of its logo in a field near the University of Phoenix stadium, where the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will compete for the football championship on Sunday.
Is Pepsi concerned the public might be alarmed by the Friday night lights? Lowden said he believes people will recognize it is part of the festivities surrounding the game.
"I'm pretty sure people will pretty quickly see through it and have fun with it," Lowden said. "I think it's going to be a real conversation starter."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)