Unlike Pepsi, Liquid Death Says It's Giving Away A Jet For Real

Back in 1996, Pepsi’s legal battle over a promotional sweepstakes advertising a Harrier fighter jet as its top prize came to an end with a ruling in favor of the company, finding that "no objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered consumers a Harrier Jet" -- according to a 2005 CBS News recap of the series of events.

Nearly 30 years later, a different beverage brand wants to prove it’s far enough away from “reasonable” to actually give away a jet for real. Liquid Death’s summer promotional sweepstakes is promising a Liquid Death-branded L-39 Aero Jet it has dubbed “Dehydrator” as a grand prize. (According to an ad promoting the contest, the plane was given the name because “with a top speed of about 470 mph, it’ll relive you of your bodily fluids and make you empty your stomach.” Gross.)



The brand claims it’s dead serious about the giveaway, and is also promising to give the winner six months of hangar space rental time with the jet.

The spark for the campaign, according to Liquid Death vice president of creative Andy Pearson, came from viewing “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?,” the 2022 Netflix documentary covering the 90s giveaway incident and resulting legal battle.

“And it got us thinking,” Pearson told Marketing Daily. “This soda company tried to get out of having to give away a jet, but what if we set out with that explicit purpose?

"Of course, even if you don’t know the backstory, giving away a jet like this is still a pretty wild promotion. We started on it closer to the release of the documentary, but it initially proved to be extremely difficult. More recently, we dusted the idea off and brought it back as our big summer promo.”

The brand has built a reputation for attention-grabbing viral marketing stunts, an approach it seems to be taking to the stratosphere with the new campaign.

“Liquid Death was created around the observation that all the coolest, most fun brands in the world are also the ones that are least good for us: beer, energy drinks, and sugary sodas. We want to give people healthier alternatives that are also 50 times more fun,” Pearson said. “So, what’s more fun than giving away an actual jet? Especially if another big soda company actually fought a legal battle to avoid having to give one to a fan.”

As you might imagine, there are some challenges to pulling off a promotion like this. 

“The fact that others had tried and failed to do this before made everyone all the more determined to figure a way to pull it off,” Pearson said, noting the effort required “a jet worthy of the name Dehydrator, one capable of super high speeds, service ceiling and g's” – ruling out a single engine prop plane from consideration.

“We settled on Aero's L-39  jet (top speed almost 470 mph, nearly 3,800 lb of thrust) as it is one of the most common fighter pilot training jets without being weapons capable—allowing a civilian to own one,” he explained.

Unsurprisingly, the stunt also required the brand consulting with a team of legal experts.

“We engaged 3 separate legal teams—aviation experts, contest experts, marketing council along with our in-house legal crew, to ensure we're fully compliant,” Pearson explained. “We also wanted to show what the Dehydrator could do in our launch video, so proper insurance and legal compliance to film inverted high-speed maneuvers was a consideration. Finally, since every can purchased at physical retail is an entry–and we expect a ton of cans to be purchased this summer–we're working with a top platform to make receipt scanning via SMS easy.”

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