PepsiCo is hitting the slopes at the Sundance Film Festival, hoping to find projects that can help it better sell soda, chips, and energy drinks, while hoping to charm filmmakers and artists it wants to bring into the fold. This year, it’s joining the likes of Netflix, the Weinstein Company, Amazon, and Sony Pictures Classics to trudge up the mountain on the prowl for product.
“We have a huge portfolio of brands and what I’m looking for are stories that relate to what each of our brands stand for,” said Kristin Patrick, the company’s SVP of global brand development. “It could be fiction or it could be non-fiction. It could be short-form digital content or it could be long form. It could be for theatrical distribution or it could be for television. It just depends on the brand.”
At Sundance, PepsiCo is debuting “Give Me Future,” a documentary about Major Lazer, a dance-hall band that includes Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire, and its recent concert in Cuba. PepsiCo co-produced the film. The rights are being sold at the festival.
In recent years, digital players have had an increasingly large role at Sundance and other film confabs and gatherings, but it’s rare to see a food and beverage company looking to make acquisitions. However, as consumers watch more and more television on DVRs or on their computers, television advertising has become less effective. That’s left companies like PepsiCo looking for novel ways to reach customers. Moreover, the cost of making a film or buying a completed one is a relative dip in the bucket compared to the $2 million to $6 million it routinely sets companies back to film a television spot.
“What’s relevant now is something that emotionally connects to consumers,” said Patrick.
PepsiCo, with a slate of products that include Pepsi, Gatorade, Lays, and Mountain Dew, has long recognized the power of popular culture. The company has been particularly aggressive in forging alliances with the entertainment industry, enlisting the likes of Michael Jackson, Shakira, Madonna, and Britney Spears to hawk its products over the decades. That’s partly what drew the company to “Give Me Future,” because it represented a chance to reinforce its connection to musical artists.
To help strengthen those ties, the company has launched a production arm christened the Creators League, and is partnering with artists on television shows, films, and digital programming. It’s already signed a deal to produce shows with talent manager Scooter Braun and is working on a feature film with producer Robbie Brenner and musician T.I. Last year, the Creators League opened up a decked-out production facility in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca.
“To me I’ve got to be able to answer one question