Energy drink Rockstar has relaunched less than a year after being acquired by PepsiCo for $3.85bn (£2.78bn). The brand is ditching its “immature” messaging and carving out a more premium positioning that will be consistent across markets as it looks to attract a wider audience and expand globally.

PepsiCo’s sports, energy and juice vice-president and general manager, Mark Kirkham, notes that while the brand is well established in some markets like the US, it is still very much a challenger other countries.

“Rockstar didn’t receive the level of focus and investment in every part of the world, especially internationally,” Kirkham tells Marketing Week. “There was some great momentum in some markets, but it really was a brand that had the opportunity to be much more than it was. A brand that had the chance to really stand out on its own, versus just living within the general associations or stereotypes of the category.”

The brand is keen to move away from what he describes as a “dated” look and feel, instead positioning as a “mature” brand that will enable it to “attract different types of consumers while keeping that premium quality”.

You need to have platforms that can scale and be relevant.

Mark Kirkham

“It’s not just the price discussion, it’s really the association of a brand and how it fits the persona of its consumer,” Kirkham explains. “This redesign has helped us rethink the cues and core design elements.”

PepsiCo has stripped back Rockstar’s branding to create a “simplified and clean” look, while “keeping some level of distinctiveness by owning certain assets such as the iconic star”.

The brand will keep an array of colours for its multiple flavours and its signature original flavour will feature in black and gold.

“We believe that will, at least on a visual identity system, change the perception of what may have been considered more of an immature or maybe dated look and feel, to something a bit more premium, a bit more mainstream and relatable,” he adds.

Unrelatable ‘extreme branding’

The brand refresh has been driven by extensive insight. After acquiring the Rockstar last July, PepsiCo got to work by first taking a step back and speaking to more than 3,000 consumers about their perceptions of the brand.

Historically, Rockstar has been heavily associated with extreme sports, but Kirkham says its research showed “extreme branding” was unrelatable to the vast majority of consumers.

Rockstar now calls its customers “everyday rock stars”, which he believes will make the brand relevant to a wider audience without alienating its existing customers.

“For us it was very much about opening up to a broader audience [and attracting] millennials, Gen Z and beyond, as the need for energy drinks is universal,” he says. Kirkham believes the opportunity to convert these customers is there as they are “repertoire consumers meaning they are not wedded to a single brand.

“We don’t want Rockstar to just be about music, we want Rockstar to be about the drinker, the fan, the individual, not about the persona that may have been established in the past. We think that’s important and it’s been key to our journey and it’s what we listened to from the consumers,” he adds.

First global campaign

PepsiCo’s ambition is to double Rockstar’s global footprint to more than 60 markets. Part of the strategy is to relaunch the brand internationally with its first consistent global marketing campaign called ‘Life is Your Stage’.

The campaign includes three TV commercials showing the “grit and determination” of people going through their daily life, including a delivery driver, office worker and an aspiring music artist in their bedroom.

As part of the campaign, Rockstar will assemble a group of influencers called the ‘Rockstar Energy Hustle Collective’ which encompasses emerging entrepreneurs, musicians and artists. They will create content to showcase “hardworking hustlers” throughout the year.

It’s not just the price discussion, it’s really the association of a brand and how it fits the persona of its consumer.

Mark Kirkham

Kirkham believes the switch from marketing in extreme sports to using influencers will help it connect with more consumers.

“[Extreme sports] are a little bit less relatable in certain parts of the world and especially as we have a global ambition, we need to have platforms that can scale and be relevant. [They need to] scale but also be relevant locally so I think influencers are going to be key.”

Ecommerce channels will also play a “critical” role in Rockstar’s global relaunch, and will be used to send consumers samples.

“Sampling in our current environments a bit tough but being creative about sampling using digital commerce to connect with consumers through channels that we’re now much more engaged with is going to be critical. I think in the past, we focused a bit more on the traditional trade, and now we have the opportunity to really expand our channel strategies.”

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