Pepsi Sweden put up three images on its Facebook page before the last night’s World Cup qualifying game between Sweden and Portugal. The three images portrayed Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo as a voodoo doll full of needles, a doll being crushed by a Pepsi can and lying tied on a rail track.
Pepsi is a sponsor to FC Barcelona’s Leo Messi, one of Ronaldo’s main contenders for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award, and apparently someone at Pepsi found it to be a brilliant idea to mock Ronaldo on Facebook. It was not.
The stunt has caused outrage among Portuguese football fans who have flooded Pepsi’s Swedish Facebook page with angry comments and images of their own, mocking Pepsi. Here are a few examples:
“Shame on you! Shame on you! You’re a disrespectful and unprofessional brand and you did not manage to achieve anything positive at all with that ridiculous, non-humorous and offensive campaign. It serves you right that 10.6M people shutted you up tonight, and will stop drinking Pepsi.” Link.
There are also many angry comments on both the Portuguese Pepsi page as well as the global page on Facebook. And that’s the trouble with a local crisis, it often spreads to a global scale. A Portuguese anti Pepsi page has also been created and it has currently attracted more than 40,000 followers. The story has already been covered in both Swedish and Portuguese media.
Pepsi has now been forced to delete the images from Facebook and to apologize:
“We would never want to put the sport or the spirit of competition in a negative light. We regret if people were offended by the posts; they were immediately taken down. We would like to extend our apologies to all concerned.”
Mocking someone else’s idol can never be a clever way to promote your brand. Pepsi has learned that the hard way.