Summary

Pepsi wanted to launch its sugar-free product Pepsi Black to China’s growing gaming community. However, brand marketing was competitive in this space, so creating cut through was difficult. In addition, gamers were not traditionally known for healthier choices. Working with media agency Mindshare, Pepsi took a research-led approach which leveraged its traditional brand partnerships strategy to connect with a young target audience.

Traditionally Pepsi had partnered with global music stars for brand marketing. Pepsi brought this heritage into the gaming space by partnering with a virtual band from a leading eSports game. Its partnership with League of Legends’ band K/DA created content and social media opportunities to connect with young consumers. The timing of the partnership announcement and its strategic online seeding was key to success. The campaign increased online audience brand engagement and drove sales, with Pepsi’s followers increasing by 345% on China’s leading ecommerce platform.

Objectives & aims

China’s eSports gaming community is the largest in the world, with over 400 million users. During the Covid-19 pandemic, eSports grew in popularity.

Pepsi briefed Mindshare to find an innovative way to connect with Chinese gamers to promote Pepsi Black – the brand’s sugar-free alternative product.

Implementation, execution & tactics

Although gamers were traditionally known for living more sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, Pepsi’s consumer research showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had shifted attitudes towards healthier options, helping to fuel a 38% YOY increase in demand for sugar-free beverages. This showed that there was an opportunity to engage this audience with Pepsi’s sugar-free option.

Traditionally, Pepsi’s brand marketing strategy had been to partner with leading music stars, to appeal to younger consumers. The brand therefore leveraged this marketing heritage but updated and digitised its approach to engage the younger, online gaming audience.

The brand partnered with K/DA, the popular virtual idol band created inside League of Legends, the world’s most popular eSports game. The timing of the partnership’s announcement and breadth of the online seeding campaign was key to success.

The online partnership was launched the day after K/DA’s comeback show during the League of Legends’s annual world championships, following the band’s two-year hiatus. This ensured that the announcement built on online conversation and leveraged social shares about the show. The launch was also timed to take place on the first day of China’s Single’s Day two-week long ecommerce event, which optimised the partnership’s sales environment.

Following the launch, Pepsi continued to leverage K/DA’s popularity as social influencers by creating an exclusive K/DA giftbox which was sold on Pepsi’s website. In addition, Pepsi/  K/DA branded gaming influencer content was seeded across China’s leading social media platforms, including Douyin, Youku, WeChat, Red, Bilibili and Weibo to continue to drive buzz.

Offline, the campaign was supported by limited edition Pepsi Black K/DA cans and merchandise and out of home gaming installations across China’s top eSports game cities.

Results

  • The partnership generated over 532 million impressions across Pepsi’s channels, with a total 8.8 million brand interactions
  • Pepsi Black increased followers on Tmall, China’s leading ecommerce platform, by 345%
  • Sales increased, with a 597% gross volume increase on Singles’ Day, representing 56% of Pepsi’s total sales