- Pepsi teamed with the sports-focused media company The Players' Tribune on the release of animated video content featuring brand character Uncle Drew, according to news provided to Marketing Dive.
- In the video, Uncle Drew, played by the NBA player Kyrie Iriving, offers advice to "youngbloods" — essentially up-and-comers — about the importance of the fundamentals when it comes to basketball. The character also wrote a letter published on The Players' Tribune's website.
- The partnership is part of Pepsi's promotion of "Uncle Drew," a feature film starring Irving that hits theaters on June 29. Pepsi first introduced Uncle Drew in 2012, and he has since become a regular fixture in the brand's marketing.
MLB star Derek Jeter founded The Players' Tribune in 2014 to publish first-person stories from athletes that would engage sports fans, and Pepsi is looking to leverage the publication's specialty to create resonance with consumers ahead of the release of "Uncle Drew."
Pepsi is hoping that the movie can translate the online popularity of the character to the big screen, and has put a heavy marketing push behind its release. Along with The Players' Tribune partnership, the brand also integrated Uncle Drew into its ongoing "Generations" campaign earlier this month by depicting the character across different decades. A brand backing a feature-length, widely-distribued film is an interesting creative gamble, but one that might pay off for Pepsi. The initial teaser trailer for "Uncle Drew" has racked up over 8.6 million YouTube hits at press time.
More brands are looking to deeper native content integrations like the "Dear Youngbloods" letter and animated short to better engage niche audiences, such as sports fans. Permanent marker brand Sharpie recently launched a content series on The Players' Tribune highlighting several professional athletes and their favorite charities. Content marketing, which often costs less than traditional ads and can bring in higher conversions, is forecast to grow to a $412 billion industry by 2021, according to Technavio data.