December 17, 2009

Game changer

Changing the way they advertise.

Changing the way they advertise.

Everyone wants to reach the top. Mountain climbers have always set their sights on conquering Mt. Everest. Baseball players have always aimed for the World Series. Big companies have always budgeted to advertise during the Super Bowl.

Until now. Pepsi is ending its 23-year run as an advertising staple during the most watched television event of the year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the soft-drink powerhouse is moving its advertising dollars online to kick off the “Pepsi Refresh Project” that will “award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers, such as helping high-school students publish books to develop their writing skills.”

ESPN reports that the website will go live on January 13, and voting will start February 1 to determine which projects receive money.

A 30-second spot during the Super Bowl costs an estimated $3 million and reaches 98.7 million viewers. Pepsi’s new cause-related initiative is reported to use up at least $20 million of its 2010 marketing budget. Apparently, Pepsi has noticed all of us flocking to the Internet for every purpose imaginable. No doubt this site will draw hundreds of thousands of applicants who want to win these grants. Of course, when Pepsi awards the money, it’s a huge PR coup. Most likely Pepsi will plant its name on each winning community outreach program, bestowing an almost sponsor-like status upon itself — for a lot longer than 30 seconds.

We all love watching what agencies come up with for Super Bowl ads, but that tradition may be dying as big companies bail — FedEx has also opted out of the big game. Whether or not the giant courier will sponsor its own cause-related initiative remains to be seen.