What do you do when your competitors can outspend you 100 to 1 on sales promotion? Make two or three big splashes a year instead of dozens of smaller ones, says Clifford Medney, who, as director of sales promotion for A&W Brands Inc., battles Coke and Pepsi for supermarket shelf space.

"Soft drinks is a $40-billion business," says Medney. "We just want our share." To get it, he times his promotions so they don't conflict with the giants.

Flexibility is key. "We do a root-beer-float campaign that can run any time between June and September. We leave it up to our bottlers and the stores to figure out when's the best time. If Pepsi has Michael Jackson in town, we're willing to wait. The secret is counterpunching."