Brand Strategy

Frito-Lay’s Messi campaign is the latest installment of its multi-year soccer strategy

The PepsiCo company’s soccer partnerships are part of a plan to connect with Gen Z, one marketing exec said.
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· 4 min read

Coming off of its well-received Super Bowl commercial for Doritos Dinamita, Frito-Lay is shifting its focus to the other football.

The Lay’s brand has had a longstanding relationship with one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Leo Messi, who’s currently serving as the face of a campaign that kicked off in mid-April and puts a branded twist on the well-known chant of “olé, olé, olé.”

“It’s this perfect match of Lay’s and soccer,” Tina Mahal, SVP of marketing at Frito-Lay, told Marketing Brew. “Really only Lay’s could do what we’re doing right now, with turning that iconic chant, that catchy chant, that one that drives passion in everyone, into a song about Lay’s.”

Of the Frito-Lay portfolio, Lay’s is the brand most involved with soccer, Mahal said, and in recent years, Frito-Lay has kicked off a broader push into the sport that’s designed to appeal to younger and more diverse consumers who are driving up interest in the US.

Getting Messi

The latest Lay’s campaign, which was developed by PepsiCo’s in-house agency D3, features an ad that changes the popular “olé” chant commonly used by soccer fans into cheers of “oh-Lay’s.” The 30-second spot starts with Messi saying “oh-Lay’s” while eating a bag of chips, eventually building to an entire stadium singing along.

The ad is set to continue appearing on linear, digital, and social channels through the summer, including during the Leagues Cup tournament between MLS and Liga MX clubs in July and August. There’s also an in-store component with packaging that features Messi, which is designed to “reinforce the program,” Mahal said.

While the ad will appear on TV, digital and social content are the primary focus for the campaign, according to Mahal, as it’s meant to target Gen Zers, many of whom grew up playing soccer and are now fans. By focusing on soccer, Mahal said the campaign will also hopefully appeal to a multicultural audience.

“It is the sport of the younger generation, and I think as that generation continues to grow and connect with brands, it’s a sport that resonates with them,” she said. “As Hispanic and multicultural consumers become a bigger part of the demographic in the US, it’s also a sport that they’ve brought from home and…continue to be passionate about.”

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The “Oh-Lay’s” campaign, and other Frito-Lay soccer sponsorships, are designed to reach “the right consumer with passion points that matter for them,” Mahal said. The campaign’s KPIs also include increasing the association between Lay’s and soccer, driving purchases, and boosting visibility for the game, she added.

Switching fields

While Lay’s has partnered with Messi for about a decade, soccer wasn’t always a major priority for Frito-Lay, Mahal told us. Over the past two or three years, the company set about changing that, she said.

“We are closely tied to sports,” Mahal said. “We’re closely tied to football, to basketball, etc., and so it felt like a miss that we weren’t playing in the space or more closely tied to soccer.”

Messi is “kind of our main focus right now,” she said, at least for the Lay’s brand. Lay’s is also the official snack partner of the UEFA Champions League and Women’s Champions League and has recently worked with David Beckham and Thierry Henry. Frito-Lay, meanwhile, has a multi-year sponsorship with the Leagues Cup, partners with MLS clubs Orlando City and Atlanta United, and supported the 2022 and 2023 World Cups.

The 2023 World Cup marked the brand’s biggest investment in women’s sports to date, according to Mahal. She declined to share anything about the company’s future plans as they relate to women’s sports, but said its World Cup campaign drove business and engagement, especially on social.

Frito-Lay was far from the only brand to want in on the Women’s World Cup, and soccer in general seems to have become increasingly appealing to marketers in recent years: Hard-seltzer brand Truly is capitalizing on its relationship with US Soccer; Reese’s is featuring NWSL stars in its Olympics campaign; and MLS league and club sponsorship revenue have been on the rise. Despite the crowded field, Mahal said Frito-Lay doesn’t have plans to leave the pitch anytime soon.

“I’m glad that the sport is getting the spotlight that it deserves,” she said. “I’m glad that we’re adding a lot of visibility to it…It’s the right moment to continue our focus, and I love doing it in a US-centric way.”

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