Pepsico’s long-time relationship with the late Michael Jackson has been both lucrative and controversial, in life and death.
Nearly three years after Jackson’s overdose, Pepsi is still counting on him—or at least his likeness—to do battle with archrival Coke. As many as one billion Pepsi cans plastered with Jackson’s silhouette are set to hit store shelves as part of a marketing deal brokered with Jackson’s estate. Not surprisingly, some have called the campaign in poor taste. But others argue Pepsi will cash in with consumers who yearn to remember “MJ” the ultra-talented entertainer, not “Jacko” the tabloid freak.
The irony is that Jackson’s drug problem may be traced to the shooting of a Pepsi ad in 1984. He took painkillers after his hair caught fire following a pyrotechnics mishap. Jackson nevertheless settled with Pepsi out of court for US$1.5 million and continued to appear in Pepsi ads well into the 1990s and, it turns out, beyond. The King of Pop, indeed.