- Pepsi has teamed with basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal for a new commercial that draws inspiration from a run of ads between the duo from the ‘90s, per details shared with Marketing Dive. The campaign promoting Pepsi Mini Cans is an extension of the brand’s 125th-anniversary marketing blitz.
- The new 60-second spot, titled “I Wish,” is soundtracked by a remix of Skee-Lo’s 1995 hip-hop hit of the same name and comically portrays the inconveniences O’Neal has faced as a person standing over seven feet tall. The creative nods to a 1994 ad backing the now-retired Pepsi Big Slam product.
- “I Wish” will air on linear TV during select NBA and NFL events. Starting Nov. 20, consumers can post a Pepsi Mini Can paired with their favorite food on social media for a chance to win a basketball signed by O’Neal.
Decades after first collaborating, Pepsi and Shaq are back together with a campaign that highlights the soft drink marketer’s mini-sized cans. A look back to past work with the NBA icon ties into Pepsi’s ongoing 125th-anniversary celebration, which began earlier in the fall and spans 125 days of promotions. The media blitz also serves as the official introduction of the brand’s first visual overhaul in 14 years.
Nostalgia has been a major focus for Pepsi as it examines over a century in consumer culture and tries to usher in a new look. The 125th-anniversary campaign has recently seen Pepsi revive vintage ads featuring music stars like Ray Charles, Madonna and Tina Turner.
“Dipping into nostalgia, which we know consumers love, is helping us build that foundation that [Pepsi] has always been a forward-looking brand, has always been celebrating the next generation of culture creators and has always been launching the next generation of products,” said Jenny Danzi, senior director for Pepsi Trademark, in an interview with Marketing Dive.
The new 60-second commercial depicts O’Neal comically struggling with tasks that are often considered one-size-fits-all, like sitting comfortably on an airplane or fitting lengthwise on a bed. The theme echoes similar messaging to that of the athlete’s “Big Slam” ad from the ‘90s.
The latest spot is soundtracked by “I Wish” by Skee-Lo, who makes a cameo appearance, and notably features a twist on the song’s popular refrain “I wish I was a little bit taller” to become “I wish I was a little bit smaller.” Instead of promoting the discontinued Big Slam soda — which was unique to Pepsi’s partnership with O’Neal — the athlete is now seen promoting Pepsi Mini Cans as the just-right size for any occasion.
The use of Skee-Lo’s popular tune is meant to tap into the culture surrounding music, a cornerstone for Pepsi, according to Danzi.
“Pepsi plays in music and in sports and across a lot of facets of culture, but music was something that we talked a lot about as we went through the archives,” said Danzi.
The commercial can be viewed on Pepsi’s YouTube channel and will air on linear TV during select national NBA games on TNT and ESPN beginning Nov. 22. Additionally, the creative will run during NBC’s primetime NFL line-up on Thanksgiving. O’Neal will market Pepsi Mini Cans through 2024, Danzi said, though the executive declined to share further details.
Consumers beginning Nov. 20 can also enter to win an official NBA basketball signed by O’Neal by tagging Pepsi on social media in a photo sharing their favorite food paired with a Pepsi mini can with the hashtags #BetterWithPepsiMinis and #Sweepstakes. The move ties into a “Better with Pepsi” platform introduced in 2021 that’s meant to elevate Pepsi as the ideal pairing with foods.
Other activations this year under the platform have included a Pepsi 125 Diner concept in New York City in October, a cola-infused condiment for July Fourth and ads that suggest consumers prefer its product paired with rum over competitor Coke.