Pepsi’s X Factor Activation: Socialisation & Visualisation


After the enormous success of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of blockbuster US singing show American Idol, it was no surprise that rival Pepsi stepped up to back Simon Cowell’s X Factor when it launched in the USA.


But the innovative dual screening approach the brand took to its sponsorship activation was a bit more eye opening for many marketers as the brand sought to leverage its rights to enhance the viewing experience and boost brand engagement.


Among the most interesting elements of Pepsi’s X Factor sponsorship initiatives were its two web-based strands – Pepsi ‘Sound Off’ and Pepsi ‘Pulse’.


Sound Off has been variously described as ‘sponsorship socialised gamification’ and ‘competitive commenting play’ – but it is essentially an incentivised companion social viewing platform for the show. At its heart it simply aggregates X Factor social conversation.


Viewers simply log in using their Facebook or Twitter profile and then post their show-related comments. Other fans can then ‘Like’ these, with the ‘Most Liked’ then appearing in small profiles within the show’s 15-second idents. The most liked can win social badges, points and a range of X factor prizes and the top four actually appear in the show.


While ‘Pulse’ also leverages public comment on the X Factor, is a data visualisation tool. The idea is that it surveys the viewing mood – who iss most and least liked, which judges are most talked about and which songs are most popular and the like.


“It replicates the water-cooler conversation that happens as the show is happening,” said Pepsi’s director of digital engagement Andrea Harrison – who showcased Sound Off at a yahoo event during New York’s 2011 Ad Week. “We know people aren’t just multitasking while they’re watching, they’re engaging in conversation. So we want to create programming that’s just as engaging as what’s on television. The aim is to create an open platform people can use to talk about X Factor 24/7 and not annoy their friends.”


Harrison describes the approach as like trying to like recreating the living room couch in social media and says that Pepsi plans to use this tactic in other pop culture events that Pepsi is involved in.


Another, less surprising, element of the sponsorship sees the winner gain a major role in Pepsi’s Super Bowl spot. And it will be interesting to watch how successful Pepsi is in integrating more direct soft drink product related engagement into these initiatives.







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