Like many players in sports and entertainment, the NFL is making a big leap into streaming as viewers cut the cord. This season sees Amazon take over the exclusive rights to air “Thursday Night Football,” a coveted programming slot. The league itself is promoting a new NFL+ service that comes in two pricing tiers and has so far been met with mixed reviews.
Which is to say that, despite some hiccups, binge-watching has very much taken hold among football fans who have no shortage of on-demand options to turn to. Recognizing the trend, Pepsi today (Sept. 7) unveiled a tiny home designed with such viewing habits in mind as the brand tries to wed an ongoing “Better With Pepsi” platform to a recently renewed partnership with the league.
Dubbed the “Pepsi 18 Week Pack” after the regular-season schedule, the compact abode is outfitted in themed decor such as stadium-style seating atop a turf carpet; a “hottoman” piece of furniture that doubles as a food-warming tray; and a Pepsi Gametime Fridge TV. The latter, which the soft drink marketer introduced in August, is a 55-inch TV with a built-in mini-fridge for storing and retrieving drinks without interrupting watch time. Other amenities include a washing machine, bathroom and Murphy bed.
In a new digital spot, recently retired Super Bowl champion Andrew Whitworth takes viewers on a tour of the space in the mode of “MTV Cribs.” Thematically, Pepsi continues to emphasize a message of “unapologetic” enjoyment, where consumers feel free to indulge themselves without fear of judgment. The concept is meant to welcome the types of fan memorabilia and clutter that would normally be scrapped or sold off as people downsize.
“We know there’s a big trend of binge-watching the NFL throughout the day. You think of [NFL] RedZone and people just spending eight straight hours in a chair watching,” said Pepsi CMO Todd Kaplan. “You think of just how much people are living in these fan-cave experiences.”
Pepsi is giving away the tiny home through a sweepstakes on grocery-delivery site Instacart, a platform that’s quickly built out advertising tools as it chases bigger CPG media budgets. Instacart users who buy two 12-packs of Pepsi in any flavor and save their receipt can enter to receive an SMS message related to the contest, which carries additional prizes like a yearlong subscription to Instacart and a $100 weekly gift card for picking up more Pepsi.
”Instacart is one of our great e-commerce partners that can fulfill your instant craving for a beverage on game day,” said Kaplan. “We’re going to obviously have it very focused and featured on Instacart.”
Refreshing the playbook
PepsiCo earlier this year re-upped its NFL sponsorship for another 10 years, extending a partnership that stretches back four decades in one of the most storied sports marketing tie-ups. But as the marketer eyes a half century with the league, it’s adjusting some of its playbook. Pepsi in May said it would step away from the Super Bowl Halftime Show, a star-studded extravaganza it’s put on since 2012.
“Pepsi’s decision to leave the Halftime Show was really our first move in a much larger strategic shift to bring these new unprecedented music and entertainment experiences to our fans where they are now and where we know they’re going to be in the future,” said Kaplan.
Pepsi’s football marketing has in recent years — and particularly with the onset of the pandemic — gravitated toward the everyday experience of football watching. In COVID’s early days, Pepsi narrowed in on couch viewing with stadiums closed to fans. As venues have reopened, it’s resumed in-person activations while keeping in mind that most eyeballs are still glued to TV sets.
“There’s many different ways to watch and enjoy the sport of football and to celebrate. In the pandemic, obviously, the tension was very high in that regard,” said Kaplan.
Two new TV spots airing nationally address different fan occasions, while both focus on how Pepsi pairs better with food in line with the “Better with Pepsi” positioning. In one, a man in charge of the grill at an outdoor tailgate burns his burgers because he’s so distracted by the taste of Pepsi. In another, a Pepsi drinker blocks the TV screen during a key play in a similar state of silent rapture over the beverage.
The commercials, which are separate from the tiny home sweepstakes, help promote Pepsi Zero Sugar, a better-for-you offering Pepsi has increasingly targeted at men in their 30s and 40s. Meanwhile, the tiny home comes stocked with a season-long supply of Pepsi Zero Sugar, speaking to a strategy shift on the product end.
“Zero sugar is is one of the biggest growth categories in cola today and is a really critical strategic importance area for us as we move forward with the brand,” said Kaplan. “You’re going to see us continue to put that brand at the forefront throughout our NFL and even other activations across the board.”