Brand Strategy

How Pepsi turned the NFL’s decision to allow players to wear No. 0 into a marketing opportunity

The brand seized the moment to promote Pepsi Zero.
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· 3 min read

This NFL season, fans will be seeing something new on the players’ jerseys, and it’s not sponsor patches (yet). It’s the number zero.

The league’s owners voted in March to allow players (outside of linemen) to wear No. 0, a move that seems to have sparked at least some excitement among athletes, with a dozen having picked the number as of June, according to CBS Sports. There’s at least one brand that’s enthusiastic about the change, too.

Earlier this month, longstanding NFL sponsor Pepsi announced that Pepsi Zero Sugar would be the “Official Zero of the NFL” for the 2023-2024 season. In addition to the new sponsorship, Pepsi Zero is capitalizing on the moment with a campaign that will extend into the Super Bowl, according to PepsiCo Sports Marketing Director Melissa Duhaime.

The roster: PepsiCo tapped seven players from teams it currently sponsors to be part of the campaign, Duhaime said, including D’Andre Swift of the Philadelphia Eagles, Braxton Berrios of the Miami Dolphins, Byron Young of the Los Angeles Rams, and Daiyan Henley of the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to Duhaime, Pepsi Zero looked first to Swift, who is the leading face of a sweepstakes that will award 100 fans with No. 0 jerseys. He was the first player in the league to reveal that he’ll be repping No. 0 on the field, she said, so the brand “jumped on that” opportunity.

Dunhaume said the brand worked with players to promote the sponsorship on social media. “I think everybody was excited,” she told Marketing Brew. “They’ve engaged even in the stuff that we put out on social, they’ve reposted, retweeted,” even when not contractually obligated to.

The results: There are none yet, according to Duhaime. The giveaway kicked off Aug. 9, and is running through Sept. 17. The brand has clocked “some positive sentiment” around the campaign so far, she said, and is looking to drive as much engagement as possible.

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“The bigger the number the better, obviously, but I think we’re excited just about the positive sentiment and the comments that we’re getting,” she said. “Obviously, we’d love to see a huge spike in sales for Pepsi Zero Sugar—that's always going to be the benefit—but it’s really just bringing Zero Sugar to the forefront and highlighting that, and using a huge platform and huge brand like the NFL to help us do that.”

Later on in the season, Pepsi Zero will roll out its “Zero Games Ticket Giveaway,” working with its 14 partner teams to identify diehard fans who have never attended an NFL game and give them a VIP experience, Duhaime said. The Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year program is also coming back this year.

Elephant in the room: There’s no talking about Pepsi and the Super Bowl without mentioning the halftime show. Pepsi has been an NFL sponsor for more than two decades, and it spent a decade as the league’s halftime show sponsor before Apple Music bought the rights last year.

While the NFL remains “one of our biggest and strongest partnerships,” Duhaime said, “it was a good time for our strategy as a whole to move on and to focus on some other music opportunities.”

Pepsi Zero will have a “heavy presence” at the Super Bowl anyway, she said, though the specifics are still under wraps.

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