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Frank Rupp, ex-ad man who helped create iconic Pepsi logo, dies

Frank Rupp of Northport, an ad man turned

Frank Rupp of Northport, an ad man turned PepsiCo executive in the "Cola Wars" with Coke, died Feb. 2, 2018 He was 89. . Credit: Theresa R. Fox

Frank Rupp of Northport, an ad man turned PepsiCo executive in the “Cola Wars” with Coke, has died.

He was 89.

Rupp died Feb. 2 at Edgehill, a senior living community in Stamford, after what his daughter Theresa Fox described as a brief illness.

An artist by trade, Rupp helped tweak Pepsi’s iconic red, white and blue globe logo in 1971. He produced company events. And on Long Island, Rupp volunteered to decorate St. Philip Neri for the parish’s birthday and design the winning logo for Northport’s village centennial.

While Coca-Cola maintained top “throat share” of carbonated soda drinks in the “Cola Wars” — a “carefully waged competitive struggle” between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s — Pepsi worked to chip away at Coke’s dominance, according to a 2010 Harvard Business School case study.

Between 1970, around the time Rupp joined Pepsi, and 1995, just after Rupp retired, Americans’ annual carbonated soft drink consumption went from 22.7 gallons per capita to 50.9 gallons, the case study said. (Consumption hit a 31-year low in 2016, continuing a decline fueled by waning demand and health-conscious consumers, according to Beverage-Digest.)

Rupp, a vice president, worked for the company for about a quarter century, according to Annette Magrone, a PepsiCo administrative assistant. The company said Rupp helped create the 1971 logo, influence how it was used on packaging and produce annual bottler meetings.

“No matter what is in the can or the bottle, the logo is just supreme,” said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark consulting and an industry expert since Rupp’s era.

The 1971 logo straddles design principles both old-fashioned and modern, foreshadowing today’s corporate branding that favors abstraction, said Pirko, who’s worked for both Coke and Pepsi. The logo’s outer boxiness, he said, reflects an anachronistic notion of representation, yet each red and blue wave “flows” and “makes it come alive.”

Rupp came to Pepsi from the ad agency BBDO — which has had Pepsi’s business since 1960 — where he had been an art director, according to agency spokesman Roy Elvove.

Francis Bernard Rupp was born on Feb. 12, 1928, to Frank Rupp Sr., a subway rail worker, and Elizabeth Rupp, a payroll clerk at a clothing factory. The couple raised Rupp, the middle of three children, in College Point, Queens.

Rupp’s paying career began at 10 with paintings of animals and still lifes for neighbors; his formal training included the High School of Music & Art, now LaGuardia high, and other art schooling.

Rupp, a lefthanded pitcher, played baseball in Queens as a teenager. His ball playing career was interrupted twice: in Queens, after he enlisted in the Navy, according to a newspaper account, and later, while on a Detroit Tigers farm team, when he was sidelined with an upper extremity injury, according to Fox.

He married the former Doris Leary in 1959. The couple moved to Northport, where they’d live for 58 years in a home decorated with his art. She survives him, as do his daughters, Isabella Rosborough of Southampton and Theresa Fox of Stamford; sons Frank Rupp of Monroe, Connecticut, and Bob Rupp of Darien; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His brothers, Robert and Richard, preceded him in death. His funeral was Feb. 7 at St. Philip Neri, with military honors at the burial at the parish cemetery.

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