Shaq and Skee-Lo Think Small in Pepsi’s Epic New Campaign  

The former baller and the rapper reimagine a '90s hit to fit a new era of mini cans

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As Pepsi winds down celebrations of its 125th year, it has called in a big celebrity partner to “think small.” 

The cola brand tapped longtime partner and former National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal to front a new campaign for its mini can. The creative is both a juxtaposition to the retired 7’2” baller’s height and a clever callback to his previous spots in the 1990s as the face of Pepsi’s massive “Big Slam” bottle.   

Further nodding to the era is the hero video, “I Wish,” in which O’Neal dreams of a world where he was “a little bit smaller”—a reversal of his Big Slam stance. The soundtrack is a reimagined version of Skee-Lo’s 1995 hit of the same name, in which he raps about being “taller.”  

A montage of O’Neal in various size-challenged scenarios—a few harkening back to the 1993 spot—is accompanied by Skee-Lo lyricizing his frustrations in the same cadence of the original song: “I wish I was like 5’4”, ‘cause when I’m with my tall crew, we could just fit through … almost any door.” 

O’Neal eventually channels his own “Shaq Diesel” rap skills to close out the beverage-themed banger, but not before a cameo from Matty Cardarople serving him a giant burger to complement his mini can of Pepsi.

The film ends with yet another callback, as the rapper attempts to get his own can to drink and is jokingly told by the baller, “Don’t even think about it”—a line first uttered to him 30 years ago by a little boy who was not about to let his fandom get between him and his soda. 

The long-form video will be available online, while 60- and 30-second cuts will run during spots such as NBA games airing on ESPN and TNT, and during the National Football League’s primetime programming on Thanksgiving. 

Pepsi will also run a sweepstakes, from Nov. 20 through Dec. 15, in which fans can post a photo of their favorite snack or meal with a mini can and use the hashtags #BetterWithPepsiMinis and #Sweepstakes to win an official NBA basketball autographed by O’Neal.

Big demand for little cans 

As the brand considered its strategy to promote the mini can in a category that has doubled in size since 2018, the opportunity to use an existing partnership with O’Neal to cheekily nod to past collaborations—while also evolving with consumer preferences—was one it couldn’t pass up, according to Pepsi chief marketing officer Todd Kaplan.

“Back in the ’90s, [the mantra] was, ‘bigger is better.’ Today, bigger is not always better,” he said. “Consumers are actually looking for smaller packaging to enjoy their cola in different ways—especially during these snackable moments in these big group gatherings.”

The brand also celebrated some of its other notable celebrity partnerships—such as Britney Spears, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Madonna—with a nostalgic diner pop-up earlier this year. However, O’Neal’s legacy made him an easy choice for the new campaign.

“If ‘big’ was Shaq’s thing in the ’90s, now that he’s a little bit older and in the modern era here, he really appreciates that good things come in small packages,” said Kaplan.

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