The Refresh Project

In a radical move in 2010, Pepsi pulled out of advertising at the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years. Rather than add to the noise of advertising, they decided to take twenty million dollars and do good with it. This became known as the Refresh Project. The Refresh Project provided social grants for great ideas that could make a real difference to people’s lives.

At first, Pepsi was faced with very harsh criticism. People said the campaign was not in line with Pepsi’s product offering and that the amount of money they were throwing at it was dangerous. At the end of the day though, Pepsi proved them wrong.

Rather than run the campaign as a traditional donation scheme, where consumers could “collaborate” with Pepsi by voting for a pre-decided charity, Pepsi allowed the crowd to do everything. Users of the site put forward the ideas and the community voted on these. Each month, 1.3 million dollars were given away.

This is more than your average CSR campaign, signing off a cheque to charity. This is a solemn commitment from Pepsi to do good and collaborate with their consumers to make the world a better place. By putting the power in the hands of the consumer, Pepsi is allowing them to feel like they are involved with the change and that they are helping to make a difference. This forms incredibly strong bonds with consumers, tying them in to the Pepsi brand, while leading to real change.


Critics of the campaign were soon to eat their words. The Refresh Project became such a hit that in the first three months alone, the site garnered over one billion impressions. More votes were cast in the Pepsi Refresh project than in the last US presidential election. In order to incentivise voting and push sales, Pepsi released specially marked packs that allow for power voting – these votes are worth more than standard user votes and can help people see a project they believe in come to fruition.

  • 183,000 ideas started
  • 13 million web visitors
  • $65.6 in earned media value
  • 47 organizations started
  • 98 schools improved
  • 24,000 volunteers engaged
  • 115,000 lives directly improved

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