The Verdict: PepsiCo’s CFL refresh pays off

PepsiCo's Nathania Dashner shares early results from the brand's partnership with the CFL with MiC.   

PepsiCo knew combining its Refresh community grants program with football players during the CFL playoffs was a good idea, but it didn’t realize it would pay off as handsomely as it did.

With the voting closed on the contest and the winner (Luke Fritz of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) announced yesterday as part of Grey Cup week in Edmonton, Nathania Dashner, marketing manager, PepsiCo Canada, tells MiC that the campaign has over-delivered.

The eight players (one from each team) involved in the Pepsi Refresh Project-CFL Challenge garnered 360,000 votes in eight weeks in support of local projects in their communities.

‘We would’ve been really, really happy with 200,000 [votes],’ Dashner says.

The secret to the success of the CFL Challenge was the ability of PepsiCo and the CFL to repeatedly engage the audience as players were eliminated and a new round of voting was required in order to support the community projects.

However, that strategy, and the four commercials needed to support it, also made the promotion difficult.

‘We had the intro, final four, final two, and now we’ll have the celebratory commercial, so logistically it was a very intense program,’ Dashner says. ‘If I had to do it again, I’d probably do it the same because I really don’t think we would’ve gotten the level of engagement without that tailored approach.’

Though PepsiCo has worked with the CFL for many years, there has a been a change in culture at the football league this season.

The result has been record-setting numbers for TSN, the exclusive broadcaster, and several fan-engagement programs delivered alongside advertisers.

With Herbal Magic, there was the Weight Loss Cup for eight former CFL players, and with Gibson’s Finest Canadian Whisky there was Gibson’s Finest Fan, in which CFL enthusiasts submitted photos and videos for a chance to win a trip to the Grey Cup.

‘In years past, they used to download a lot to the CFL fans, whereas now, this year especially, they’re really trying to open a line of communication and make it as engaging as possible,’ says Dashner. ‘Everything they’re doing has become two-way. How do we make the fan a part of the game? How do we make the fan a part of the community? How do we open that line of dialogue so it’s not just us constantly throwing things at them?’

The CFL has also made it easy on its partners, coordinating athletes and the broadcaster, leveraging its social media presence and even hosting the PepsiCo contest microsite on the CFL site.

The co-operation and the fan response has convinced Dashner that taking part in the playoffs and the Grey Cup is definitely worth repeating next year.

‘I think it would be a huge miss if we didn’t, and I know we’ll be part of the Grey Cup for sure, and if I have it my way, I’ll recommend we do something similar.’