PepsiCo have announced today that they are terminating the current contract with Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury as the face of Pepsi Cola. The brand will now be moving away from the centrist Church of England image, in which Pepsi drinkers were portrayed reflecting upon difficult spiritual matters as the product is remarketed ‘in more of a hip hop direction towards youth and music’.
Although a number of global brands have previously benefited from major celebrity endorsements, PepsiCo have had been forced to admit that choosing an elderly Anglican archbishop has not provided the massive boost that they had hoped for. ‘Oh it’s very easy to be wise after the event’ said Pepsi Co’s Head of Marketing Chad Taylor. ‘Suddenly everyone seems to be an expert in celebrity endorsement and claim they knew this would never work.’
The Rowan Williams-Pepsi campaign had been blighted by controversy since its inception. The advert, a two minute ‘Thought For the Day’ style monologue, which first aired during Superbowl XLII gave Williams the opportunity to reach millions worldwide with his views that we should all try to save water, use our cars only when truly necessary and that Jesus Christ died for our sins. The strapline ‘and in many ways that reminds us of our relationship with God’, spoken at the end of each advert before the archbishop swigged of a can of Pepsi, became a staple of television humorists most notably on Saturday Night Live.
Despite huge investment in prime time slots, sales actually fell back particularly after the archbishop gave his notorious ‘bring back Routemaster buses’ speech which polarised public opinion worldwide and led to several African churches to breakaway from the Church of England.
Pepsi sales have fallen dramatically in all market sectors except amongst elderly English church-goers, and the drink slipped from its position of market leader to fall behind rivals IrnBru and Panda Pops.
Dr Williams was reported to be ‘saddened but not surprised’ that he had been dropped, but said he would pray for PepsiCo’s marketing executives. The drinks giant were apparently determined to terminate the celebrity endorsement, even after a desperate last-minute offer from the Archbishop to start wearing a backwards baseball cap and baggy gangsta clothes.