An American Beverage Company Is Giving Away a Fighter Jet, But For Real This Time

It's called "The Dehydrator" because "it goes so fast, you'll pee yourself." (Liquid Death)

In the annals of the all-time biggest marketing snafus, few companies have made bigger or more high-profile errors than PepsiCo. The company once positioned reality TV star Kendall Jenner as the solution to racial strife in America amid the Black Lives Matter protests. It refused to pay up when it accidentally wound up owing $18 billion to Pepsi drinkers in the Philippines. But perhaps Pepsi’s most memorable disaster (in the U.S., anyway) was when it was nearly forced to buy a McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II fighter jet for one of its consumers.

Remembering the Harrier fiasco, Liquid Death – the self-described “funny beverage company who hates corporate marketing as much as you do” – is poking fun at Pepsi’s biggest fail by giving away a Czech-made Aero L-39 Albatros trainer jet. The new contest will last from May to September 2024, part of Liquid Death’s ongoing “evil mission is to make people laugh and get more of them to drink more healthy beverages more often.”

Pepsi’s 1996 “Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff” campaign started off like any other branded merchandise giveaway of the 1990s: if you buy enough products, you could earn enough “Pepsi Points” to redeem for T-shirts, duffel bags and even a mountain bike. The company’s now-infamous Super Bowl commercial accurately represented how many points were required to get the shirt (75 points), jacket (1,450 points) or sunglasses (175 point) but also included a throwaway joke, offering a Harrier for a number of points that should have been out of reach – except for two key failures.

The first failure was that the commercials producers cut the number of points for the Harrier down from 700 million to 7 million, so the number would be easier to read in the commercial, according to the Netflix documentary, “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” The second failure was that the contest rules allowed Pepsi Points to be purchased for cash at 10 cents each, meaning that the Harrier could be purchased for just $700,000 – a steal for a fighter valued at $37 million at the time.

It was a deal John Leonard was willing to make, and he would sue PepsiCo. for his Harrier. He never got it, but the memory of his attempt has long outlived the Pepsi Points campaign.

Liquid Death’s new sales campaign, however, is starting with the fighter jet, an Aero L-39 Albatros called “The Dehydrator” (because it can go so fast you’ll pee yourself) that’s currently valued at $400,000. The L-39 was first developed in communist Czechoslovakia as a light attack jet. Today, it’s also used as trainer aircraft by many countries, especially members of the former Warsaw Pact. Updated versions of the L-39 are still in production, although “The Dehydrator” is a lightly used model with a top speed of around 470 miles per hour and a ceiling of 37,000 feet (it’s also never been armed).

“We like to poke the bear,” Andy Pearson, Liquid Death’s vice president of creative, told Adweek. “And I’ve heard that others have had the idea to give away a jet, but no one’s ever pulled it off… It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done.”

If James Bond can steal an L-39, you can learn to fly one. (MGM)

Along with the Albatros, the lucky winner will also receive six months of free hangar space, a pilot’s helmet, a year’s supply of Liquid Death (“to rehydrate after you puke and pee your pants”) and a cockpit cup holder for all that water or tea. All you need to do is visit the giveaway site and start a text chain, buy a Liquid Death product from a physical store, and text a photo of the receipt. The company swears entrants to the jet contest will not have to take them to court to get the prize.

Each product purchase between May 21, 2024 and September 4, 2024 counts as one entry, with a maximum of 400 entries. You can also mail them a postcard for four entries, as per the official rules. And if you don’t want a jet, you can opt for a briefcase filled with $250,000 instead.

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for post-military careers or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues