Pepsi unveiled its latest "Made for Football Watching" campaign tied to the NFL season with a 2:30 spot starring "Billions" and "Breaking Bad" actor David Costabile, per details emailed to Marketing Dive.
In the tongue-in-cheek ad, titled "Football Is Calling," friends at a watch party start to trickle out to do other activities like brunch but are stopped by Costabile, who gives a rousing speech about the necessity of staying inside. Costabile nods to the fact that people have been cooped up for basically "two years" and are missing social connections, but positions football as a ritual that can't be missed.
The creative, which promotes Pepsi Zero Sugar, rolls out with national TV ads and digital content featuring Costabile. Pepsi also announced a partnership with NFLShop.com where specially marked cases of its beverages will carry QR codes that unlock points to be put toward official gear from the 32 league teams or weekly sweepstakes offering a variety of prizes, including a trip for two to Super Bowl LVI.
Pepsi, a longstanding NFL sponsor, is heralding the return of football season with ads that make an impassioned argument for fans to stay inside on game day even as other opportunities call. The effort builds on a "Made for Football Watching" platform the marketer introduced last year that caters to diehard viewers.
The latest creative doesn't directly address the coronavirus pandemic, but makes clear reference to the prolonged period consumers have spent at home and how they're stepping out more often as pre-pandemic activities, including bottomless brunch and in-person shopping, return and people look to reconnect with their social circles.
The anthem spot draws on Costabile's gravitas as an actor to evoke the pump-up speeches made famous in sports films like "Any Given Sunday" and "Remember the Titans." Counterintuitively, the message is that staying glued to the couch is a sort of admirable sacred duty, with Costabile stating, "The only thing we stand for is sitting."
"Now that fall schedules are beginning to fill up, we felt it was important to remind everyone to unapologetically prioritize their football watching time — even if it comes at the expense of social or household obligations," said Todd Kaplan, Pepsi vice president of marketing, in a press statement.
In the announcement, Pepsi cited Nielsen research that found football fans remained loyal to the sport in 2020, watching NFL games at three times the rate as other primetime programming. But there were more stringent COVID-19 restrictions in place in many areas of the country last fall, when vaccines weren't widely available. The more recent Olympics games in Tokyo suffered on the ratings front, with TV viewership down 42% compared to the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro. Many of those who tuned in earlier this summer found host network NBCUniversal's streaming offerings too fragmented, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Pro football retains a powerful hold on linear TV viewership even as cord-cutting accelerates, but advertisers could nonetheless be concerned given ongoing COVID-19 uncertainties. NFL ratings for the 2020 regular season were down 7% compared to the year prior, according to Nielsen's findings.
Pepsi is using the return of football to prop up Pepsi Zero Sugar, a better-for-you soft drink it's been marketing more heavily to men in their 30s and 40s. The company recently revealed plans to run more than a dozen spots for Pepsi Zero Sugar around the NFL season amid a growing war with Coke's own zero-sugar variant, which also just launched an extensive campaign centered on a product reformulation. Pepsi last week ran a social media promotion that urged consumers put off by the taste change to "break up" with Coke Zero Sugar and make the switch to Pepsi.
At the same time, Pepsi is deploying direct-to-consumer tactics through its tie-up with NFLShop.com, the official merchandise provider of the league. The packaging play includes a sweepstakes component that promises prizes such as an "Unapologetic Fan Cave Makeover," a watch party with a famed NFL player and the chance to go to Super Bowl LVI.
Pepsi will build out the campaign throughout the season with local fan activations, additional digital and linear content and other consumer engagement opportunities, the announcement said.