IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Pepsi Challenge is back! Iconic campaign marks 40th anniversary with a twist

The Pepsi Challenge is back for its 40th anniversary — and it's not just about blind taste tests anymore.
/ Source: TODAY

The Pepsi Challenge is back for its 40th anniversary — and it's not just about blind taste tests anymore.

The famous advertising campaign, which featured Pepsi trouncing Coke repeatedly in head-to-head contests between blindfolded judges, launched back in 1975, is getting a new makeover for the social media generation.

The new Pepsi Challenge, which rolled out on Wednesday, features celebrity "ambassadors" like Usher, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, and Snapchat star Jerome Jarre. And unlike in past years, the campaign started with online videos rather than celebrity-filled television commercials.

"It's a modern marketing take on a wonderful piece of our history,'' Pepsi chief marketing officer Kristin Patrick told "Back in the day, we used to just focus on a TV spot and the key art for retail. Now because of the Internet, it's more about the creation of content and our digital program. It's much more about how we're making that connection with consumers to open up the brand so that it's not just us talking at them any more."

The New Pepsi Challenge is On
The 40th anniversary of the Pepsi Challenge is geared much more toward social media and digital content.Pepsi / YouTube

As soda sales have declined in the face of other beverage options, like sports drinks, giants like Pepsi and Coke are resurrecting marketing campaigns from the past to fuel the never-ending cola wars — Coca-Cola is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of its famous bottle, as Pepsi looks to refresh this iconic campaign for the millennial generation.

Every month, the ambassadors will issue some type of global challenge on social media using the hashtag #PepsiChallenge. "It could range from submitting videos or written work, taking a selfie, or working with our ambassadors in another way,'' Patrick said. "This generation doesn't necessarily care about winning things. They care more about getting their thoughts and content out there."

While the challenges are issued globally, they will be modified locally for different cultures as Pepsi tries to expand its global reach. Consumers in India, for example, will be challenged to "Crash the IPL" by submitting their own Pepsi ad that will be aired during Indian Premier League cricket games this year. There will be challenges focused on regional food in Thailand and Vietnam, a challenge for consumers to record sounds of the activity around them while stuck in traffic in the Middle East, and a summer music challenge in Latin America. Another challenge will feature Usher along with video shot from the International Space Station.

There also is a social responsibility component through Pepsi's relationship with the Liter of Light organization, which has brought solar lighting to 18 countries in need while also recycling plastic bottles. Any time consumers use the #PepsiChallenge hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, the company will donate $1 to Liter of Light.

"The underpinning of the entire program is social responsibility,'' Patrick said.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter and Google+.