Podcasts   //   January 13, 2022

PepsiCo’s Fabiola Torres on making Rockstar Energy relevant with gamers young and old

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Energy drinks are in the midst of a renaissance.

According to Fabiola Torres, CMO and svp of PepsiCo’s energy drinks category — which includes big brands like Rockstar — the renaissance is about finding who the core customer is. Her focus, she said on the Modern Retail Podcast is to “really go deep into storytelling, making sure that our products continue to get better and better.”

Torres joined the PepsiCo team in April 2020, right when the pandemic hit. Before, she worked at high-end brands like Beats By Dre and Nike.

In her eyes, she was excited about leading the marketing for a ubiquitous product that still resonated with unique subcultures. That’s no easy task, however. Energy drinks have a bunch of connotations, and their popularity has risen and fallen like changing tides. But as gaming platforms continue to reach new users, and with Gen Z being such a driving force of culture, energy drinks are making a comeback. According to July data from IRI, the energy drink category grew 11.6% year-over-year.

PepsiCo’s strategy with Rockstar, which it acquired in 2020, is to team up with people and events that are popular in the communities it wants to target. This includes teaming up with Microsoft on its latest Halo release, as well as a bunch of influencer campaigns. That’s especially true for social campaigns; “When we talk about TikTok, it works with influencers that have the reach,” she said.

The hope is to find the gaming, youthful zeitgeist while also figuring out areas for growth. What’s more, according to Torres, Rockstar is just the beginning of energy drinks under Pepsi. “The future is bright for us,” she said.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

On going into the CPG marketing world
“I think the opportunity and the challenge [with] this category specifically — energy drinks — is they drive a lot of culture, they drive a lot of sports and music connection to the consumers. And I was happy that I could actually fill those gaps in terms of really bringing expertise in music and sports and even gaming into the company, which made me a little bit of a different profile for leader of PepsiCo. I was excited for the opportunity and trust they put into someone they never met before.”

How she approaches culture and relevance
“When I talk about relevancy, it is about the cultural currency. There are some intangible things — like, how do you make a brand relevant again? I’ve been contacting a lot of partners that I have worked with in the past. And it’s just about how you become part of [the] essentials. For Gen Z and millennials, gaming is a big component of it; music is another big component; sports is another big component. So those are the three pillars that we really want to focus on — or, have being focusing on: really [going] deep into storytelling, making sure that our products continue to get better and better.”

How PepsiCo approaches collaborating with Microsoft
“One thing that we wanted to make sure is we continue working and growing with [Microsoft] and understanding how the two brands come together. And, how we elevate the game that they released… Halo has been in the market for two decades, and Rockstar has been as well. So we have a lot in common. This is our 20th anniversary for Rockstar. And we felt like this was the right game [to partner with] because it gets into a little bit older generation and younger generation as well. I have a 12-year-old kid that is crazy about Halo. It is a franchise that is very important for Microsoft. and it’s very credible in the community. One of the goals for [Rockstar] is to continue building that credibility in the younger generation of consumers and in the gaming community.”