Why Pepsi Put Cardi B, Steve Carell and Lil Jon in a Super Bowl Ad Together

PepsiCo's CMOs spoke with Adweek about the inspiration behind its spots

Cardi B stars in Pepsi's Super Bowl spot. Pepsi
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Atlanta may be Coca-Cola territory, but that’s not stopping PepsiCo from making a Super Bowl splash.

The food and beverage giant is running three different ads in the Big Game: one for Doritos; one for its new sparkling water brand, Bubly; and one for its namesake soda. All three ads are packed with familiar faces. The Backstreet Boys and Chance the Rapper are appearing in the Doritos spot, Michael Bublé in Bubly’s, and Cardi B, Lil Jon and Steve Carell in the Pepsi ad. PepsiCo will also be doing several on-the-ground activations (in addition to the out-of-home ads it’s already put up around Atlanta) as well as sponsoring the halftime show, as it has since 2013.

“Super Bowl is a super important time for us to grab consumers’ attention,” said Jennifer Saenz, CMO of Frito Lay North America. “It’s a day where people come together, and they’re enjoying snacks and beverages really as a part of their experience. PepsiCo and its portfolio really naturally fit the occasion.”

Greg Lyons, the company’s CMO for North American beverages, said that the company wanted to use the Pepsi ad as an opportunity to talk the beverage up. The team, which was led by agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, was inspired by the often-asked question: “Is Pepsi OK?”

“It’s what happens in real life a fair amount,” Lyons said. “We had a choice to embrace it and flip it on its head or to ignore it. We play it off as something consumers can really relate to, and we did it in a fun Pepsi way that really highlights and celebrates how great Pepsi is.”

Having the word “OK” in mind led Pepsi to Cardi B and Lil Jon, both of whom are famous for the way they say the word. The team landed on Carell because they felt he “could be strong and funny at the same time to talk about how great Pepsi is,” Lyons said.

And it was worth mentioning Coke, Pepsi’s biggest competitor, by name in the spot, Lyons said. “I think people have heard of Coke before, so I don’t think we’re helping their awareness at all,” he joked.

One beverage Pepsi is hoping does see a rise in awareness post-Super Bowl is Bubly, which it launched last year. “Bubly’s a new brand, so it’s all about awareness,” Lyons said. “There’s a lot of upside gaining awareness with the Super Bowl ads.”

Saenz said the Doritos’s spot is all about “taking an original and making it hot,” whether that’s with a Doritos chip—the brand is using the ad to debut its new Flamin’ Hot Nacho flavor—or the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” with a remix from Chance the Rapper.

On the ground, Pepsi’s activations will include a concert with halftime show performer Travis Scott on Friday night called “Planet Pepsi,” automated bots handing out Doritos and Pepsi on the streets of Atlanta, and recycling bins installed all over the city. In the Tostitos Cantina pop-up space, there will be a livestream of a bowl of chips, setting an “unofficial” record for the longest-ever livestream of a bowl of chips at 53 hours in honor of Super Bowl 53. PepsiCo is also launching a new peach flavored Gatorade in a nod to Atlanta.

“It’s such a good investment for us,” Lyons said. “It’s a terrific platform and will continue to be one.”


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@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.
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