Pepsi says it will stick with the NFL for as long as the league can put games on the field.

Pepsi has long been one of the sports giant’s biggest sponsors, so much so that it has become synonymous with the annual halftime show at the Super Bowl. In pandemic-stricken 2020, however, the beverage giant has had to devise an entirely new marketing blitz.

New TV ads that start to air this week show how a Pepsi is an endemic part of football watching, and strive to celebrate the humble football watcher. The commercials will run through the first week of the NFL’s football season, primed to show up in games throughout the looming season, according to Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing at Pepsi. TV’s football shows – ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Sunday afternoon games on CBS and Fox, on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” – are among the medium’s most-watched pieces of content.  The networks will also feature Pepsi on-screen in spotlights of fans that will appear just after coverage returns after a commercial break.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen” as the season unfolds due to the potential effects of the coronavirus, says Kaplan, in a brief interview.  “We are confident in the NFL’s ability to make the right decision. Right now, we are continuing to follow their lead, which says there will be a season.”

Don’t look for those celebrity-centered Pepsi ads with Britney Spears or Cindy Crawford. The new campaign, crafted with Omnicom Group Inc.’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, aims to highlight utility. In one spot, a would-be football player tries to get ready — for watching a game with a can of Pepsi. In another, a young man reviews how much he loved football – and became an optometrist who watches it.



Pepsi is working off the knowledge that most football fans will be in front of a TV to watch their favorite team, since the pandemic makes in-stadium attendance and normal tailgating problematic. With that in mind, the company will work to give some house-bound fans an in-home experience.

Some fans will, through partnership with 16 NFL Teams, be surprised by snacks or prizes; a T-shirt collaboration; and visits from players or team alumni. Fans can look for team-specific 12-packs of Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar and Diet Pepsi. And the advertisers expects to unveil fan experiences that bring the football-stadium experience into the home.

“We have contingency plans for a lot of these different elements,” notes Kaplan. “This year in particular, we have had to pivot on a dime with a lot of these things.”

The company intends to work toward a Super Bowl halftime show, he adds. “We are continuing to build out those plans right now.” Parent company PepsiCo, which also sells Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana orange juice and Frito-Lay snacks, among other products, spent nearly $783.2 million on TV advertising in 2019, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. and nearly $880.6 million on overall traditional media.