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"Pepsi is generally number one": Pepsi discusses its recent TikTok football challenge

Tyrone Stewart

Pepsi has long been heavily involved with football, forming partnerships and creating ads with the likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Cesc Fabregas, and Frank Lampard, just to name a few.

The popular soft drink brand recently launched the latest evolution of its work with famous football players, launching the ‘Music Keeps Us Fizzing’ campaign alongside Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, Jadon Sancho, and Shanice van de Sanden.

“For years and years, we’ve been in the worlds of music and football. And, when we've been at our best, there would always be great players in an entertaining concept and then a track that just takes it to another level. So, that's what we've done with ‘Music Keeps Us Fizzing’ this year,” says Aman Matharu, Director of Digital Transformation & Marketing Capability for Global Beverages at PepsiCo.

“We’ve got the GOAT, the world's best player, Messi; a World Cup winner in Pogba; a superstar that's up-and-coming in Sancho; and then Shanice van de Sanden, who is the coolest female player that's out there, coming to life in this in this advert – all to this bespoke track that we've put together with Becky G and Burna Boy.”

At the heart of the campaign, there has been a TikTok hashtag challenge. The #PepsiChallenge, developed in partnership with football platform Copa90, enables fans around the world to show off their football skills alongside Messi, Pogba, Sancho, and Van de Sanden.

The activation works via TikTok’s ‘Duets’ feature, which gives users the opportunity to use someone else’s content and perform alongside it in a split-screen video. Fans can get involved in the #PepsiChallenge by searching for the hashtag and selecting the player they wish to duet with via the @PepsiGlobal TikTok channel.

At the time of writing, the #PepsiChallenge has amassed over 2.3bn views.

“The idea was, essentially, around people being stuck at home in lockdown,” explains Matharu. “How do we give them a chance to play football with their idols and how do you do it in an entertaining way with music really driving the beat? So, this is where we worked with our creative agency on various concepts and the one that we all loved was really around this hashtag challenge. And we called it the ‘#PepsiChallenge’, because why wouldn't we call it that? We've got so much equity in ‘Pepsi Challenge’. It just made sense to use the hashtag challenge and to leverage duets as the way. ‘How do we get people playing with the talent? Why don't we try duets?’ And the more we worked on it, the more we got more confident that this was going to absolutely fly.”

Pepsi also worked with a number of influencers around the world on the campaign, including the likes football freestyler and presenter Ben Black (@ben); football creator and freestyler Jenifer Rosas (@jenifer.rosas); and Youtuber Bruno Carneiro Nunes, better known as Fred (@Fred).

“Our creative agency has an influencer arm as well. So, it was a case of, ‘who are the relevant influencers for us to bring onto this onto this project?’ We’ve been working with influencers for years so, when it comes to football, we've had a great established relationship with four or five of them at least, and then we'll always look to refresh it and bring in the up-and-coming influencers that are out there,” says Matharu.

“In Brazil, we've chosen Fred as one of the influencers who worked with us on this, and his numbers are huge. He gets us a couple of million views per video. But our influencers also love the concept, it's not just a big brand that turns up with a with a cheque.”


Away from TikTok, Pepsi has launched an augmented reality experience with Instagram.

The experience, which works by scanning a QR code on the side of Pepsi’s packs around the world, enables consumers to take part in a game where they control one of the campaign’s featured players using just their head movement.

“Imagine how many hundreds of millions of packs that are on shelves around the world with a QR code on them that you can scan,” Matharu says. “With the Messi can, for example, you would unlock the Messi experience within Instagram, and you basically use your head to control Messi. You go up and down and you collect points and, again, the track is driving it in the background. The way we built it is based on the BPM of the song. As the track gets faster, the game becomes harder and it's all about what's the highest score that you can get.”

As with any brand looking to sell products, the main goal of the campaign is to sell more Pepsi. But, to achieve this, the brand needs to be sure it’s putting out the best content and engaging the audience with every activation. And it seems that, for Pepsi, engagement isn’t a problem.

As mentioned earlier, the brand has amassed more than 2.3bn views across the #PepsiChallenge. In addition to that, the campaign-related duet video shared on Messi’s channel is the most-viewed video that he has ever had – a title that previously belonged to another Pepsi video, funnily enough.

“We're proud to be able to give Messi content that absolutely flies,” says Matharu. “And, if you look at Pepsi's content versus his other sponsors, it doesn’t come close to our numbers. We know he loves working with us because of that and it's the same with the others too. If you look at their numbers when it comes to branded content, Pepsi is generally number one.”

We can expect to see plenty more from Pepsi around football and music later this year.

For the last few years, Pepsi has had exclusive sponsorship of the Champions League final opening ceremony and this will continue this season (and for the next few seasons at least, after PepsiCo extended its partnership with UEFA until 2024).

The pre-game performance in this season’s final is set to be performed by “one of the biggest artists that’s out there,” according to Matharu. And a campaign can be expected around that on TikTok and other platforms.

“Everything we do, we always want to be entertaining and be cultural with it,” he says. “If you look at Pepsi back in the day, that's what we've been famous. When Pepsi's been at its best, it's always been about entertainment. That’s why we partner with TikTok – it’s the most entertaining platform at the moment and where this generation is being most creative.

“We’re really driving fun and making sure that we're giving something exclusive and innovative that only Pepsi can do – and I think we've really delivered that,” concludes Matharu.