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“Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” The story behind one of the great prize promotions (and what went wrong!)

February 02, 2023

Exciting sales promotions are a sure-fire way to drum up interest, footfall or even increase direct sales for your product or service. What’s the most important part of the promotion? Having a great prize on offer? Making record sales or maybe dominating the press column inches as your promotion makes headlines?

As PepsiCo found out in 1996, having a watertight terms and conditions policy and clear, honest advertising are just as important. “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?”, a Netflix Documentary that aired last month looked back at the strange turn of events and subsequent lawsuit against them.

The ongoing battle for soft drink supremacy between PepsiCo and Coke raged in the 90’s. To help them increase brand loyalty, PepsiCo ran a sales promotion centred around their associated points system; this allowed customers to purchase goods and accumulate “Pepsi Points”. The points could then be redeemed for a variety of products with the intuitive point system rewarding thirsty buyers with 5 points for a 12pack, 2 points for 2L Bottle and a single point per cup.

The Pepsi Prize catalogue offered items such as a Baseball Cap (60pt), Sports Ball (120) and even a Mountain Bike (3,300) in exchange for a customers points. The promotion was a big hit, especially with a young man named John Leonard.

An advert for the promotion caught John’s attention, as it claimed for a whopping 7 million points customers could purchase a Harrier Fighter Jet. Not a toy, or model, but a real life working instrument of warfare, capable of taking off vertically and carrying 10k pounds of explosives! The Jet
To PepsiCo, and most others, the 7 million point target was beyond unrealistic and considered a joke. But the 21 year old community college student was not like most others. John realised that by using a loophole in the terms and conditions, which allowed customers to outright purchased the points from PepsiCo directly (instead of earning them through product purchases), the 7 million points needed would cost just $700,000. The Jet itself was worth over $33m, so John saw an opportunity for a bargain!

To view the full story and aftermath, as John takes on PepsiCo and tries to get his hands on a Fighter Jet – make sure you check out the Netflix documentary!

 

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