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How Pepsi Max conquered social media using basketball players in makeup

My first introduction to Pepsi Max was at South by Southwest, 2011. With little to no sleep and Texas barbeque slowing me down slightly, a beverage with nearly twice the amount of caffeine of a normal Diet Pepsi was just what I needed to stay energized. That memory of the brand I encountered at the foursquare lot (the place to be at SXSW 2011) sticks out in my mind and made me a fan from my first sip.

And since then, the brand has evolved and the accolades that Pepsi receives for their forward thinking approach to social media haven’t stopped. Their latest kudos come on the heels of the most recent installation of the “Uncle Drew” series, starring Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who has helped them bring the story of Pepsi Max, a “Zero-Calorie Cola in Disguise,” to life.

Irving, a former NBA rookie of the year, is transformed into “Uncle Drew,” a legendary basketball player from the 1960s, reminiscent of Bill Russell. Documentary style videos capture Uncle Drew dominating the courts of New Jersey, Los Angeles, and most recently Chicago, in a humorous yet very authentic way.

In the most recent two chapters of the Uncle Drew series from Pepsi Max, the brand brought three other athletes from the NBA and WNBA, Kevin Love, Nate Robinson and Maya Moore better known as Wes, Lights, and Betty Lou, into the fold to further extend the story.

The idea of older looking basketball players running and gunning up and down the court plays directly into the “Zero-Calorie Cola in Disguise” tagline, and the messaging and creative is a keystone content block in the Pepsi Max social strategy. It speaks directly to the brand’s core consumer and continues to spark online conversation and engagement for the brand, keeping them relevant and top of mind for their target audience.

Pepsi Max took their tagline to the next level by going beyond just saying that they are a “Zero-Calorie Cola in Disguise.” They built a story and content strategy around that tagline, embraced it, and embedded their spokespeople (high profile athletes from the NBA and WNBA) into that story.

With a total of 43,316,974 views across three videos and 4,813,304 of those views coming in the past 15 days (the video was number 4 on Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart last week), the Uncle Drew story is one that was created with shareability and spreadability in mind, by the brand.


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