Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines launched a promo called the “Number Fever” in 1992. It instantly became a hit. Basically, the promo works like a lotto. The company would announce a Number, and if the number in the bottom of the caps matches the drawn number, the cap holder wins. The highest amount to win was P1 million. Other smaller prizes were 100, 1000, 10 thousand, 50 thousand, and 500 thousand.
Other Pepsi drinks such as Mirinda, Mountain Dew and 7 Up were also part of the promotional activity.
Winning 3 digit numbers were announced daily. The sales was booming, it increased up to 40%. Everyone was happy, until on May 25, 1992, Pepsi announced the wrong number – 349. The prize was the whooping P1 million. Only one lucky person should win this.
It turned out there were other 490,116 winners. Pepsi had printed the 349 number on 800,000 caps.
The Company refused to pay the full P1 million prize to each of the thousands of 349 cap holders. Imagine, for example 1 million to 1,000 winners. That’s 1 billion pesos. And there were 490,116 winners. Pepsi had only a budget of P100 million for the Number Fever promo.
As a result of Pepsi’s refusal to pay the full amount of the prize, the company faced thousands of lawsuits – civil, fraud and criminal. Riots and attacks from angry claimants also ensued. Also resulted to deaths, about 5 people died.
Pepsi’s 37 delivery trucks were razed. A grenade was thrown into their Davao warehouse, 3 employees died in the incident. The company had to hire armed guards protecting their trucks during the delivery of their products.
Some accepted the settlement prize of P35,000. Others were willing to go the extra mile, even more than a decade of lawsuit.
But on June 20, 2006, the Supreme Court handed a decision nullifying the complainants’ claim of the prize of P1 million. Meaning – claimants could not get a single centavo of the highest prize. The Court’s decision said that the “winning caps should contain the security code that matched the winning number”.
Pepsi got more than what they bargained for in a negative way. Revenue losses for sure and a tainted image. They still could not surpass Coca-Cola’s dominance in the Philippine market since then.
Below is the promotional video of the Number Fever.