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IP Quick Intellect

Why turning the competition into a voodoo-doll will always backfire

Posted by on 25 May 2017

A #Thursdayflashback about that time Pepsi turned Cristiano Ronaldo into a voodoo doll

The line between humour and offensiveness is always touch and go. When trying to create a humorous campaign during the World Cup qualifier between Portugal and Sweden back in 2013, Pepsi in Sweden decided on a campaign centred around Portugal's footballer superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The less-than-tasteful campaign featuring a voodoo doll likeness of Ronaldo went viral on facebook. Images showcased the footballer tied to train tracks, lying with his head crushed beneath a Pepsi can, and covered in Pepsi coloured-pins (yes, we’re shaking our heads too).


The Portuguese quickly took umbrage, starting a petition to boycott the popular beverage. The petition garnered over 130,000 signatures in 24-hours

So why, four years later, are we revisiting the Pepsi and Ronaldo debacle?

One –The Internet never forgets

It may be four years later but if you Google “social media fail” this lack of judgement still appears on page one of the search results. The Internet remembers long after the general population may be tempted to forget – even if like Pepsi, you’ve tried to delete the evidence.

Two – Humour is subjective

It’s so easy to misjudge what the majority of people will find funny. If you’re planning on running a campaign then test it once. Test it twice. Test it a third time for good measure. Make sure your test audience is a good cross-section of the community. If you’re still not sure then err on the side of caution and run with a safer approach – in the world of social media your brand can be torn apart quickly and savagely for a misstep.

Three – It doesn’t pay to alienate your customer base

130,000 people in one country calling to #BoycottPepsi or [insert your brand] is not insignificant. It damages your reputation, your bottom line, and if the damage is bad enough, your long-term sustainability. With a myriad of brands competing for your customer’s dollar, you can’t afford to give them the edge.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the results of the qualifier - Portugal beat Sweden 3-2. Ronaldo scored all three goals, and Sweden was knocked out of the playoffs.

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