Pepsi, Michael Jackson to reunite through campaign

Nickalas Tabbert

PepsiCo Inc. is going on a reunion tour with the King of Pop.

The Purchase, N.Y.-based company on Thursday announced a deal with the estate of Michael Jackson to use the late pop star's image for its new global marketing push, the Wall Street Journal said. Different countries will see various forms of promotion, including a TV ad, special edition cans bearing Jackson's image and chances to download remixes of some of Jackson's most famous songs.

Pepsi, which first partnered with Jackson in 1983, didn't disclose the terms of its deal with the singer's estate.

Brad Jakeman, Pepsi's chief creative officer, says the broader "Live For Now" campaign was developed over the past 10 months and is intended to amplify the company's long-standing ties with pop culture.

The Jackson promotion is one aspect of Pepsi's strategy to reverse a slide in performance over the past few years. Consumers in the U.S. and China will be the first to get a taste of the campaign in coming weeks, which is timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of "Bad," the singer's multiplatinum album. The campaign will spread to about two dozen countries by fall.

In the U.S., the company is releasing collectible 16-ounce blue cans that bear an image of Jackson striking one of his iconic poses. Consumers will be able to scan codes on the cans with their phones to download remixed tracks from "Bad."

In the Chinese market, consumers will also see a TV ad featuring Jackson. Contests will also let consumers win tickets to a Michael Jackson-inspired show by Cirque du Soleil and leather jackets inspired by the singer's style. The global campaign builds on Pepsi's deal with the singer's estate last year to use his image in a commercial that premiered during the "The X Factor" TV show.

Although Pepsi is banking on the nostalgia Jackson can evoke, the partnership also resurrects painful memories, the Journal said.

In 1984, Jackson's hair famously caught fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The blaze happened after a spark from a pyrotechnics display landed on the singer's head. Jackson suffered severe burns and many trace his addiction to painkillers to the incident. Pepsi gave Jackson $1.5 million as a result.