Marketing the Rainbow

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Case study: Pepsi

Branche: fmcg


Pepsi and the other brands belonging to the same group were one of the first major fmcg brands to use gay advertising and marketing.


The company has been broadly eyeing the U.S. gay market since 1997, when it was advised by a gay marketing agency to expand its policies for gay employees first. It added an inclusive non-discrimination policy then but has not yet made any corporate marketing moves here. In Colorado Springs, an area bottler has supported Pride events since 1999 and an independent Pepsi bottler was supporting a Pride parade in California in 2001.

PepsiCo was one of the first sponsors of PrideVision, a 24-hour gay TV network launched in Canada in 2001.

In Canada, a “bisexual” man came out of the closet on a commercial and declared his love for Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. In a more recent spot aired in the UK, a man drinks a Pepsi to find courage to ask someone out. He passes up two women and expresses interest in a man.


Pepsico’s brand Doritos repeatedly released gay tease commercials (see below).


All these ads use gay jokes to appeal to a larger audience (because, who does not want to laugh at the gays?). However, they were not really aimed at the gay market yet, but Pepsi did enter that arena.


Diet Pepsi made its debut in Pride parades in June 2004, followed by gay media. Diet Pepsi has kept a relatively consistent gay media presence since then.


One of their ads features a young, shirtless man with a "nutrition facts" box that touts the number of "six packs consumed a week to keep this 'six pack' " at two. Jazz Diet Pepsi, its flavored diet line, has run its general market campaign ads in print as well as on LOGO, the gay cable network.


In the 2005 Super Bowl Pepsi spot “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley gapes at an attractive man on the street. The spot also features Cindy Crawford in a cameo.

Frito-Lay advertised its gourmet Sensations lines with general market ads in OUT magazine. It was an important crossover by a packaged goods and salty snacks brand into gay media. "We were first," PepsiCo spokesman Dave DeCecco notes with pride. "We recognized the importance of the gay market and hope that the community will reward that."


Diet Pepsi would get more advertising revenue behind it in gay media, DeCecco says and added that Diet Pepsi scored No. 2 (after Absolut vodka) among most popular brands in a 2005 survey. More gay-customized ads were expected.


Diet Pepsi's continued to sponsor gay pride events in New York, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.


When Pepsi spoke out in support of LGBT rights, they were the target of a boycott by - of course - the American Family Association. (see Boycotts)