Dr Pepper’s 2016 Larry Culpepper Campaign – Have they finally found their footing?

This year, Dr Pepper is bringing back their Larry Culpepper figure, whom they introduced in 2014. Culpepper is a character leveraging Dr Pepper’s sponsorship of the College Football Playoffs. While Dr Pepper has a lot of TV commercials featuring this mascot, I’ve been looking at his presence in the digital world.

The Larry Culpepper campaign seems to be taking a huge focus on content creation. One unique creation for this campaign is a microsite, LarryCulpepper.com. Larry Culpepper is a middle-aged man who is obsessed with football. The microsite has been crafted like an old school computer, where you can read Larry’s computer files, emails, etc. The site is mostly humorous, but there are plenty of appearances of Dr Pepper on the site as well.


The site is a great piece of content for building the Larry Culpepper persona. For example, one of his emails is an order confirmation for fanny packs. This really builds his character as a goofy older man who doesn’t fit in with the times, but doesn’t care. His only concern is for college football. The site also features “proof” that he invented the college football playoffs, with images of little scribblings of a football bracket he claims he drew prior to their creation.

In using a share tally tracker and checking multiple page ranking sites, it seems that not a lot of people are sharing, viewing or engaging with the microsite. Now these methods aren’t exactly foolproof ways to gauge a site’s success, but the fact that there hasn’t been any mention of the site on the Dr Pepper social media pages in the last year makes its lack of success even more believable. This is a huge missed opportunity on Dr Pepper’s part. They have the content, it’s high quality, and fits in with the campaign, but they aren’t sharing it. This is one of many instances I’ve found that has made me question who is in charge of the social media aspects of Dr Pepper’s campaigns. Between the microsite, the many Culpepper videos, contests, and even a Snapchat filter, Dr Pepper does seem to have the content creation side of things down. However, I think they could do a much better job of getting fans to view and engage in their content.

The Culpepper campaign could also stand to make use of content curation. Dr Pepper’s top competitors, Coke and Pepsi, both focus a lot of their advertising on partnerships, particularly with athletes and musicians. If Dr Pepper wants to establish their credibility with college football, they should have Larry Culpepper responding to commentary made by athletes and sports commentators. There is a huge opportunity for this type of content curation on Twitter. Culpepper could retweet and respond to tweets by leaders in the college football scene. Not only would this establish the credibility of the partnership between Dr Pepper and college football, it would get more eyes to the Dr Pepper Twitter. And if one of the athletes/commentators were to respond to Larry? That could be golden.

Dr Pepper had success with a similar approach this past Summer. Bassist for the band Panic at the Disco, Dallon Weekes, tweeted a GIF of himself holding a Dr Pepper with the caption “Love mah Pepps”. Dr Pepper saw this and tweeted back at him “And we loves @dallonweekes.” They were able to get in front of Dallon’s fans and people were talking about it. It wasn’t a huge hit, but their tweet back to him got way more favorites than most of their generic Dr Pepper tweets get. This is a different situation as Dallon mentioned Dr Pepper specifically, but they could still use a similar approach to leverage a star’s power in their Culpepper campaign, without paying the high price of celebrity partnerships.


According to an article from Ad Age in 2014, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group cut their marketing budget by $30 million. A budget cut like this would suggest to me that Dr Pepper would want to put a much heavier focus on their social media marketing strategy than they have in the past. I’ve scoured through the past years’ worth of content on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and they still seem to be trying to find their footing in the social media world. There has been a lot of content put out on all platforms that has fallen flat as far as audience engagement. Every once in a while, they’ve had moments of success, like when they latched onto the Pokemon Go craze. It would be nice to see Dr Pepper get to a place where they can have fairly consistent levels of audience engagement with their content, like some of their competitors. The 2016 Culpepper campaign is just beginning, so it will be interesting to see if this is the campaign they need to find their social media success.