Pepsi Skips Super Bowl Ads for $20 Million Social Marketing Program

Pepsi Super Bowl Ads
Pepsi Super Bowl Strategy Goes Social Marketing

In a huge shift in advertising strategy Pepsi has decided after 23 years of running Super Bowl ads that this coming Super Bowlthey will be launching  a Social Marketing Campaign instead.  In the advertisng world the Super Bowl is the epicenter of TV advertising for the year with  companies investing millions for their 30 to 60 seconds of attention.  Since 1999 to 2009 Pepsi spent over $142 million on Super Bowl ads.  This coming year they are earmarking $20 million toward what they are calling The Pepsi Refresh Project.   Participants can suggest ideas for how to “Refresh” their communities and make the world a better place to live. The ideas will be submitted and their will be public voting. It is great to see a major brand developing and executing a “Cause Marketing” program. I believe this will generate great goodwill and commercial gain for Pepsi.

Mashable has put together a nice summary of the program below. 


The Super Bowl is consistently one of the most-watched television programs of the year. Even as network television viewership continues to erode — thanks to cable, timeshifting and Internet options — advertisers are still willing to pay big ad dollars for a spot on Super Bowl Sunday. 

That could be changing. For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi will not have any ads in the Super Bowl. Instead, the company will be spending $20 million on a social media campaign it’s calling The Pepsi Refresh Project.  

Such a large move is noteworthy for any company, however Pepsi’s symbiotic relationship with the Super Bowl makes this shift to new media that much more seismic. ABC News notes that Pepsi spent $142 million on Super Bowl ads over the last decade. Pepsi’s ads are often some of the most iconic, and the company has historically pulled out all the stops for the Super Bowl. 

The Pepsi Refresh Project

Rather than spending money on a Super Bowl ad, Pepsi will launch the Pepsi Refresh Project on January 13, 2010. At that time, users can submit their ideas to Pepsi for ways to refresh their communities, making the world a better place. 

Voting will begin on February 1, 2010, and the projects that get the most votes will be funded by Pepsi. Pepsi expects to spend $20 million to fund thousands of projects. 

Will It Work?

This is an interesting strategy, especially for a company that continues to spend much of its advertising budget on television. Like other social media campaigns, execution is key. If Pepsi can effectively orchestrate the Pepsi Refresh Project, the company can build brand awareness while also helping out communities across the world. On the flip side, if not executed properly, the company could wind up spending $20 million on philanthropic causes (which is to be commended), without getting the benefits of a buzz-generating ad campaign. 

For Pepsi’s sake, let’s hope that the team it uses with the Pepsi Refresh Project has some better insight into social media norms than the agency hired to do the AMP iPhone app

What do you think of Pepsi’s decision to forgo the Super Bowl for social media? Will this strategy be enough to bring back brand awareness to consumers? 

Here are a few Pepsi Super Bowl Ads from recent years: 

2009 Pepsi Super Bowl Ad: 

2008 Pepsi Super Bowl Ad: 

Post: Warren Raisch Think Conversation Social Marketing Strategies: December 27, 2009

3 thoughts on “Pepsi Skips Super Bowl Ads for $20 Million Social Marketing Program

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