I read a post over at Adage’s blog as well as Mashable about how Pepsi has, for the first time in over 20 years, not purchased a single ad in this year’s Super Bowl (for its beverage brands – this doesn’t apply to Doritos). Instead, they’ll be putting $20 million bucks behind a new Social Media campaign.

The Pepsi Refresh Project will call on users to submit to Pepsi ways that they can refresh their communities.  Will it pay off?

It’s interesting that their flagship drink will not make an appearance at this year’s game. I wonder if after all these years paying big bucks for :30 TV spots (though sometimes very creative) they still see a bounce in revenue based on those buys. If not, then putting that $$ behind a Social Media campaign may be a good decision that stretches those dollars over a longer period of time than the ads – if it is executed correctly.

Pulling the spots also may be a byproduct of a couple of tough economic years, or a big brand playing up corporate responsibility (is good the new green?). Regardless, the move itself has generated a lot of free attention… What do you think the buzz that this story generated is worth?

2010 is sure to see tons of brands big and small move toward relationship and experience based marketing. And if the $20 million price tag of their Social Media campaign holds, Pepsi is no doubt one of the players who are betting big on their community.