Rockstar Energy could easily have gone awry with a new campaign targeting Hispanic consumers. Instead, the energy drink company, in working with Alma, is demonstrating how to partner with community influencers to reach multicultural audiences authentically.
The PepsiCo brand took a risk with its new limited-edition beverage series with a familiar name: Aguas Frescas. Agua fresca is a muddled fruit drink that dates back centuries to the Aztecs. In Rockstar’s Punched version, the Strawberry and Pineapple offerings get a kick of caffeine.
In borrowing from Hispanic tradition, the company risked offending its audience rather than connecting with them if its efforts came off as cultural appropriation.
To avoid that, Rockstar partnered with a Latinx influencer, famed barber Victor Fontanez, to speak directly to the community in a spirit of partnership. They also tapped Argentinian director Rocío Crudo to direct a 30-second spot, part of the company’s upcoming “Poder Para Mi Gente” campaign.
Vic Blends, as Fontanez is known online, peppers Spanish into his voiceover in the ad, walking through a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood as he talks about his community’s cultural values.
“Los Latinos, we uplift each other,” he says. “We don’t hustle to leave our community, we hustle to make an impact on it.”
Authenticity in multicultural marketing
Rockstar is calling the campaign its “first-ever Hispanic equity campaign.”
“This is a huge moment for Rockstar Energy Drink, which has a long heritage of creating beverages that Hispanics love. With this campaign, we applaud those who work tirelessly for their success and give back to their communities to help them succeed,” Fabiola Torres, PepsiCo general manager and chief marketing officer of the Energy Category, said in a company statement. “This is only the beginning for the brand as we continue to explore innovative ways to expand the energy category and support local communities.”
Torres is also of Hispanic heritage, and it’s worth noting that Rockstar worked with members of that community throughout the campaign to ensure that it would be respectful and resonate.
Contrast that with the recent criticism that Samsung faced for an ad about women running at night alone that seemed to have been created by mostly men.
“When advertising is tone deaf, it is usually because the creators have no sense of context for their message,” Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told SmartBrief.
Influencers can offer brands a valuable way to get that context and embed it within their campaigns, but only when marketers treat influencers as partners in the creative process.
YouTube influencer Raven Elyse raised that point in a recorded message during last week’s IAB NewFronts panel on creators.
“Let the creator be the creator and be creative and have as much freedom as you can give them with the creative concepts behind it,” Elyse said.
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