Pepsi readies its Refresh campaign after ditching the Super Bowl

PURCHASE, NY: PepsiCo has launched a multimedia campaign with a robust social media component to support its Pepsi Refresh Project, in which the soft drink company has allocated $20 million toward funding consumer projects.

PURCHASE, NY: PepsiCo has launched a multimedia campaign with a robust social media component to support its Pepsi Refresh Project, in which the soft drink company has allocated $20 million toward funding consumer projects.

“The program is really an evolution of the Refresh Everything initiative we launched in 2009,” said Bonin Bough, director of social media at PepsiCo. “We really think of this as a social engagement program, and believe it is the first of its kind especially of this magnitude.”

Beginning January 13, visitors to www.RefreshEverything.com can submit an idea that they think would better the world. Up to 32 grants will be awarded each month in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $250,000—the equivalent of up to $1.3 million monthly. Ideas will be funded in the categories of Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Education, Health and Neighborhoods.

Recipients of the grants will be determined by online voting. The voting opens February 1, with the first grants to be announced March 1, and the first of every month after that for 10 consecutive months. In total, up to $20 million in grant money will be doled out in 2010, said Bough.

To encourage participation in the program, the year-long marketing campaign includes traditional channels like TV, print, in-store and PR. “Social media is also definitely one of the major platforms,” said Bough. He declined to provide specifics in terms of marketing expenditure, but said digital spend for the Pepsi brand will increase by more than 50% this year versus in 2009.

The social media component aims to turn people who submit ideas and voters into advocates of the program, Bough explained. “We want to empower our consumers by providing them with the tools to go back out to their communities,” he said. “So people will be able to vote via widgets that someone can place on their blog or content that comes up on their Facebook stream or clicking on a link they can send out to their community via Twitter.”

Media outreach will be targeted at both the national and local level. “We will work with winners at the local level, for instance, because again it is about activating the ideas in the community,” said Bough. PepsiCo is working with two of its roster PR agencies on the Pepsi Refresh Project: Edelman and Weber Shandwick, which will share a variety of assignments.

PepsiCo has a lot riding on the Pepsi Refresh Project. For the first time in 23 years, PepsiCo announced ads for the Pepsi soft drink would not appear on the 2010 Super Bowl.

Although Bough declined to provide internal metrics that led to the decision, he said, “The beverage brand strategy for Pepsi is really about moving into more of consumer engagement media and [the Super Bowl] just wasn't appropriate.”

“Having said that, we think the Super Bowl is an amazing platform, so much so that other brands within the PepsiCo family like Doritos are still advertising on the Super Bowl. We believe in the power of the Super Bowl but just not for this program.”

Instead, the Pepsi Refresh Project is a content partner of the upcoming reality show from American Idol creator Simon Fuller called If I Can Dream, which follows five young people looking to make it big in Hollywood. The series will be broadcast live online at www.Hulu.com in the near future, with MySpace as the social networking partner. “It is not just about slapping on a logo and sponsoring something, but how we add value to the entertainment experience,” Bough said. “The series speaks heavily to us supporting social media overall.”

The Pepsi Refresh Project has only debuted in the US so far, but will roll out to additional countries later this year, said Nicole Bradley, PepsiCo senior PR manager.

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