For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi won’t be advertising any of its beverage brands in the 2010 Super Bowl, according to The Wall Street Journal reporter Suzanne Vranica. Pepsi instead will shift advertising dollars to support a cause-marketing campaign called the “Pepsi Refresh Project,” which “will award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers.”
The Associated Press reports, via ESPN.com, that the program’s interactive website will launch on January 13th, allowing consumers to submit worthwhile community projects and vote for the ones they want Pepsi to award grant money. According to Pepsi spokesperson Nicole Bradley, the company is sifting to a strategy and “marketing platform that will be less about a singular event and more about a movement.”
With $20 million set aside for “Pepsi Refresh Project” grants and a 60 percent increase in online ad spending to support the campaign, as The AP reports, Pepsi seems to be putting its money where its mouth is. Super Bowl commercials offer unparalleled reach for advertisers: The 2009 matchup between the Steelers and the Cardinals had an audience of 95.4 million people (The AP). However, if your goal is to cultivate a “movement” for your brand around a cause, you can’t just tell people about it with ads — you have to generate buzz online and actually engage with consumers.
It will be interesting to see how successful Pepsi’s initiative turns out. We’ll know a lot more when the website goes live next month. I’m sure many would consider Pepsi’s move a risk — abandoning what is probably the most prestigious advertising forum in the world — but I commend Pepsi for trying something innovative, and putting a sizable budget behind a socially responsible, interactive and engagement-driven campaign.
David Reich is co-founder and CEO of SixEstate, blending a background in traditional marketing and public relations with over 5 years of experience managing hundreds of online marketing campaigns for all kinds of organizations — from small businesses and nonprofits to public companies. David is responsible for keeping SixEstate and its clients at the forefront of the rapidly evolving search and content marketing landscape. Connect with David on Twitter, Google+ or via email.