PepsiCo served as the official beverage and snack partner for the massive global expo—and created three striking pavilions to educate attendees and promote its products.
The basics: Expo 2020 Dubai was a massive global event held from Oct. 1, 2021-March 31, 2022, at the Dubai Exhibition Centre. The international gathering aimed to raise awareness of worldwide issues, and celebrate ideas, culture, cooperation, and innovation. This was the first World Expo to be hosted in the Arab world, and is being billed as the largest event to ever be held in the region.
The gathering (which had been postponed from 2020, but kept the year in its name for branding purposes) had a “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” theme along with three subthemes—opportunity, mobility, and sustainability—each of which hosted its own district within the event’s footprint. And PepsiCo served as the event’s official beverage and snack partner, working with INVNT Group to create three distinct, branded pavilions that ultimately drew 702,000 in-person attendees and a whopping 50 million virtual attendees.
PepsiCo’s presence at Expo 2020 was a first-of-its-kind undertaking for INVNT: The company’s entire global teams all worked on the event at one point, whether it was in creative, production, or marketing. “We pride ourselves on being a ‘big small’ agency powered by a rich tapestry of perspectives and disciplines—beginning with our dynamic creative and production teams, who came from our nine offices from around the world to powerfully blend imagination and innovation for the PepsiCo pavilions,” said Scott Cullather, president and CEO of INVNT Group.
Standing out: To draw attention at such an enormous conference, the PepsiCo and INVNT teams decided to create three separate pavilions, each centered around the expo’s three subthemes. “We worked closely with the PepsiCo product and marketing teams to understand each brand’s identity [and] their objectives as individual entities and overall—driving the strategy and production of the pavilions, as well as marketing, media, and social campaigns for the project,” explained Cullather, adding that the team designed what he calls an “experiential journey” through the expo’s themes.
Farah Hindiyeh, managing director for INVNT Dubai, added that the team leaned into those three pillars to start thinking about how PepsiCo’s brand story could be tied in. “We wanted to touch on the emotions and senses—integrating visuals, sounds, scents, and touch throughout all our three PepsiCo pavilions,” she said.
The resulting spaces included the Drop pavilion, celebrating Aquafina, which was located in the global fair’s sustainability district. It featured 41,000 strategically placed recyclable aluminum cans on its exterior, creating a striking-yet-fluid water-drop structure. It also delivered a high-tech experience with “Aquatar,” a 3D water encyclopedia created with Unreal Engine that shared facts on the human body’s relationship to water.
Meanwhile, the Bolt pavilion—which celebrated Gatorade—delved into the science of physical performance and active lifestyles. Located in the mobility district, the pavilion featured multiple educational and shareable moments, starting with a retrospective of the Gatorade legacy and its relationship to some of the greatest athletes and sports moments of all time. The Bolt pavilion also featured an experiential moment where visitors could put their agility to the test against other visitors through the Gatorade React Board.
Finally, the Plus pavilion for Pepsi Black and Lay’s was held in the expo’s opportunity district. Lay’s-branded, immersive pods allowed visitors to celebrate the spring season by stepping into a cherry blossom display that was enhanced by scents of inventive Lay’s flavors from around the world. For Pepsi Black, meanwhile, there was a multimedia space using the Unity technology platform; highlights included the Pepsi Black “Pledge Wall”—a 5-meter-by-4-meter LED curved wall that held visitors’ pledges over the six months of the global conference.
A tech-forward approach: The team purposely used cutting-edge technology in each space, and incorporated key takeaways for a virtual audience too. “Exploring new frontiers to reach relevant audiences is in our DNA as storytellers and experience producers,” said Cullather. “Our approach to this partnership with PepsiCo leveraged creative innovation not only in the next-generation technology deployed, but also in how we applied it to cultivate an interactive, multisensory experience for all audiences.”
Added Hindiyeh: “We weren’t afraid to experiment and dive into unknown waters when it came to the digital innovation incorporated throughout. This was important to us as we wanted to engage with an audience of all ages and backgrounds and create memorable takeaways. We pushed the boundaries of what could be created, and worked with the latest technology in the market to capture our vision.”
A six-month event: Since the pavilions needed to be on display for the expo’s six-month duration, the team had to think outside the box a bit, using modular methodologies that allowed the structures to be more mobile, as well as with enhanced efforts around sustainability.
“Sustainability was woven into our strategy and storytelling from inception,” noted Cullather. “The pavilions had to speak to our collective global citizenship to the environment—from design to the materials used for building each pavilion. They were created to be mobile, so they could potentially be transported to other communities across the world.”
Hosting a six-month activation that would reach millions of attendees also inspired the team to create interactive, gamified, educational experiences that offered resources to support the planet, added Cullather. “Our experiential programming reached both local and global communities while highlighting the innovation that powers PepsiCo’s brand story into the future across many of their marquee brands,” he said.
To Hindiyeh, the key was “finding the sweet spot between a pop-up and permanent installation, while keeping sustainability and mobility on our minds,” she explained. “We deepened our approach in many different aspects to extend the life of the pavilions. … We invested in the logistics, details, and technology; how the systems operated in the back end [to ensure] efficiencies; as well as the physical build and materials selected to withstand six months.”
Key takeaways: “With the ever-changing challenges that the pandemic created, we were confronted with our INVNT mantra of ‘challenge everything’—and lived up to it,” said Hindiyeh. “Our team globally came together [virtually] over Zoom and worked cohesively, finding solutions and in turn creating something beyond our dreams.”