PepsiCo, Coca-Cola turn to social media

02 February 2010

NEW YORK: PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, the soft drinks rivals, are both making heightened use of social media to promote their latest corporate social responsibility initiatives.

As previously reported, Pepsi announced in December that it will not be advertising its trademark cola brand during the Super Bowl for the first time in almost a quarter of a decade.

The company is instead focusing on a digital marketing campaign, using its own website and a variety of other online properties, in an effort raise awareness of the Pepsi Refresh Project.

As part of this CSR scheme, the Purchase-based firm will give donations, ranging in value from $5,000 (€3,592; £3,140) to $250,000, to good causes in the US, with a budget of $20 million in all.

Seth Kaufman, director for media strategy at PepsiCo's North American beverages arm, said "this is a fundamentally different programme that required us to engage with our consumers in a different way."

Web users will be able to vote for the individuals, groups and organisations which they consider worthy of receiving this funding, with up to 32 grants being awarded every month.

Ralph Santana, vice president of marketing at PepsiCo North America, added "we're living in a new age with consumers."

"They are looking for more of a two-way dialogue, story-telling and word of mouth. Mediums like the digital space are much more conducive towards that."

AOL, MTV, NBCU Universal and Yahoo are among the media partners for this communications drive, while Pepsi will also sponsor a reality series, If I Can Dream, on Hulu, the video-on-demand platform.

Facebook and Twitter will be among the other services the owner of Gatorade and Mountain Dew will employ in spreading its message.

Mike Murphy, vp of global sales at Facebook, said "they're looking at this as a way to create longer-term value, and to help their customers better understand what Pepsi stands for."

"The experimentation phase is over. Companies, brands and marketers are feeling more comfortable about [using Facebook] as a core part of their strategy."

Coca-Cola will run two spots during the Super Bowl, using these ads to direct people to social media sites linked to its charitable activities.

Visitors to a dedicated page on Facebook will be able to view a sneak preview of one of these ads if they send a branded "virtual gift" to one of their friends on the service before the Super Bowl.

Each time such a "gift" is delivered over duration of the month-long scheme, the beverage maker will award $1 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, with a total budget of $500,000.

Some 2,500 of these "gifts" had been sent by late last week, with this latest effort forming part of the organisation's longer-term commitment to the Boys & Girls Clubs, to which it has donated nearly $60m.

Katie Bayne, cmo of Coca-Cola North America, said "by using our Super Bowl ads to invite people to join us in supporting Boys & Girls Clubs, we're going beyond simply airing great commercials on a terrific live television event."

"It's exciting to see when you let go of the brand and let other people play with it what can happen. It's doing good on the way to doing great advertising. And that's a great place to be," she added.

"As far as our competitor choosing to go somewhere else, we'll miss them. At the same time, I know they have other things planned. We have been planning on the Super Bowl for a long time."

The TV commercials form part of the company's global Open Happiness platform, another core element of which is, which contains information on a range of Coke's philanthropic projects.

This portal also allows the 14 million members of MyCokeRewards, Coke's four million "fans" on Facebook and 1.5 million "fans" on MySpace to offer financial support to various causes.

Data sourced from New York Times/AdAge/Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff