NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Since the roll out of Pepsi-Cola's new smiley-face-type logo and optimistic-themed campaign, plenty have drawn comparisons between it and President-elect Barack Obama's message. The soft-drink giant will solidify that connection with a major presence in Washington during next week's inauguration festivities.
In keeping with the brand's new optimism push, Pepsi is plastering messages such as "All for One" and "Yes You Can" on buildings, billboards, buses and public transportation hubs around the city. Beginning Sunday, street teams will make their way around the nation's capitol, distributing commemorative Pepsi campaign buttons, scarves and hats.
"We have always had a bipartisan message of optimism, and that's why we love [our] logo," said Anamaria Irazabal, director-trademark Pepsi, calling any similarities between Pepsi and Mr. Obama's message a "happy coincidence."
"This inauguration is pretty unique and historic," she said. "It is an event that's bigger than the Super Bowl, because it's a unique moment in time. It's an important cultural event, and we need to be part of the conversation."
On Saturday, a new commercial, dubbed "Pass," from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, will debut during "Saturday Night Live." Ms. Irazabal said the spot highlights how Pepsi has been a part of cultural moments and includes a call to action. "There's [this idea] that the new president is going to change everything," she said. "But we all need to be engaged, and we all need to be agents of change."
To that end, Pepsi is giving consumers the opportunity to submit videos as part of an open multimedia letter to the new administration. At RefreshEverything.com, videos beginning with "Dear Mr. President" range from the frivolous to the serious. A Florida woman asks that medicine not be socialized, while an Ohio man asks that utility companies be better regulated. One Michigan man tells the president the U.S. should claim pizza as the national food, if Italy hasn't already. Many wish Mr. Obama good luck.
More than traditional marketing
But Pepsi's presence in Washington next week will go beyond traditional marketing and advertising. The brand is also sponsoring a Refresh the World Symposium on Jan. 19 and The Creative Coalition Gala Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20.
"As a topical brand and cultural leader, it's our responsibility to add value in these moments," Ms. Irazabal said of the events. "Two things that define Pepsi are change and, compared to our key competitor, something that defines them, they are timeless, we are timely. We are always topical. We are always a part of the conversation."
The symposium is being organized with Spike Lee and Howard University and will feature such heavy hitters as Andrew F. Brimmer, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Arianna Huffington. Sessions include Refresh Education, Refresh Gender and Refresh Black America. There's also the light-hearted, Refresh Hip-Hop session featuring Sean Combs, Queen Latifah and Chris Lighty.
Meanwhile, Quaker Oats, another PepsiCo brand, will also be looking to connect itself with next week's historic inauguration. The brand is partnering with 11 "mommy bloggers" to host inauguration parties. "Moms are core to Quaker Oatmeal, so [mommy bloggers] are particularly important to us," said Shelley Haus, marketing director-Quaker breakfast portfolio. "The inauguration is an interesting fit with breakfast. There are not a lot of global historic events that fit so well with the breakfast time period."
The blogging effort will serve as the kick off to Start With Substance, a partnership between Quaker and Share Our Strength, whose mission is to feed children.