How do you lure amusement park fans away from the adrenaline-inducing thrill rides they seek? Pepsi found the answer by leaning into its deep roots in music and developing a new way to get hearts beating faster. Enter: Pepsi Pop Star, an immersive entertainment experience that gives consumers their 15 minutes of fame through a contactless music video activation at Hersheypark in Hershey, PA. The 2,500-square-foot attraction is the first of its kind for the CPG giant and serves as a permanent park installation.
Pepsi and Hersheypark have a long-standing partnership, and, paired with the fact that amusement parks attract younger demographics, the property is an ideal location for the Pepsi Pop Star experience. With messaging like “Your time to shine,” the activation is geared toward millennials and Gen Z who unapologetically engage in the experiences that make them happy. “What we were looking to solve was, what’s that new experience that people are going to talk about that’s going to appeal to the generation of today?” says Rachel Prowler, senior manager-marketing at PepsiCo Beverages North America Division.
Located in the Kissing Tower region of the park, the Pepsi Pop Star experience can be booked online through the Hersheypark app or website, with slots available in 15-minute increments. Consumers receive a notification when it’s time to head to the activation. When they arrive, a brand ambassador walks them through the dos and don’ts of participating in the experience, then sends them off to their own private dance pod to get their groove on.
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Inside the dance pod, a large screen powered by gesture control technology guides the experience. First, the visitor takes a selfie and uses it to create an avatar that is fully customizable, down to its attire. Next, they choose a genre and then a specific song to dance to (artists currently range from Kane Brown to The Killers to Black Eyed Peas).
Finally, it’s time to take the “stage.” As they follow along with avatars on-screen, participants are challenged with mimicking professional dance routines, earning points for all of the moves they get right. When the visitor has completed their performance, they receive a score that can be viewed on an on-site leaderboard designed to encourage repeat visits. They also have the opportunity to scan a QR code that delivers their customized 15-second music video that can easily be shared across social channels.
When participants exit the dance pod, the concert vibe continues as they’re invited to explore a retail shop within the space. The store features Pepsi merchandise that is exclusive to the Pepsi Pop Star experience and Hersheypark, including hats, sweatshirts and limited-edition Pepsi Pop Star cans. The arrangement serves as the first time Pepsi has offered licensed gear with one of its partners. Just like the tracks available in the dance pods, the apparel will be updated each season. And everyone is invited to shop—even those who don’t participate in the Pop Star activation.
“Consumers today believe that they’re stars. They think that they can earn a career on TikTok or being a YouTube star,” says Prowler. “So there is this natural connection with the generation of today and music. And then, certainly pair that with Pepsi’s history with, for example, the [Super Bowl] Halftime Show, and all of the great performers that have been a part of that. There’s definitely a connection with Pepsi and we want to make sure that we’re tapping into it and adding to it.” Agency: Jam3, Toronto.
Photo credit: Larry French/Getty Images for Pepsi