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Pepsi sends a rallying call to football fans

September 2021

This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.

Kick-off of the 2021 NFL (National Football League) season has given many Americans the opportunity to come together again for the first time in over 18 months, and to focus their energies on something other than endless discussion surrounding the pandemic.

Pepsi’s long-standing partnership with the NFL provides the brand with an opportunity to piggy-back on the excitement and anticipation of a new football season, specifically the return to Sunday rituals. ‘Football is Calling’ celebrates the friendships formed over watching football, encouraging people to forgo their renewed social freedoms for “something worth sitting down for”.

This is delivered through a rousing speech by Billions and Breaking Bad actor David Costabile, a football fanatic who convinces fellow fans to reserve Sundays for nearly 12 straight hours of hard-hitting football action.

However, did the video do as much for Pepsi as it did for football? Additionally, was David’s passionate display of fandom enough to keep viewers engaged throughout the video’s 2’ 30” runtime?

To answer these questions and measure the video’s effectiveness, we put it to the test using our three C’s framework:

  • Captivate: Does it stand out and grab attention?
  • Connect: Does it instantly recall the brand?
  • Compel: Does it motivate behavioral change?


The melodramatic speech celebrating the rituals of football fanatics across America was enjoyed by some, with the passionate call-to-arms successfully conveying the humorous tone of voice Pepsi is renowned for. However, while highly distinctive (both in terms of content and delivery), many struggled to remain engaged throughout.

In the absence of strong narrative peaks, few were able to recall any specific moments which stood out prominently — suggesting a (much) shorter cut would’ve been able to deliver the same emotional impact without the corresponding negativity.

Pepsi Made for football watching - Ad Testing - Captivate


The brand’s role in an ad is especially important when having only limited distinctive assets to work with. For extended, narrative-driven productions like ‘Football is Calling’, it’s paramount that the brand be positioned as the facilitator behind ensuing outcomes (rather than its role in the story being merely incidental).

While the new spot is an extension of the brand’s “Made for football watching” platform which launched last year, it’s not tied back to an especially strong product or brand truth, and as a consequence Pepsi doesn’t play an integral role in driving the storyline forward. It wasn’t surprising then that few picked up on subtle brand cues interspersed throughout.

Pepsi Made for Football Watching - Advertising Testing - Connect


If Pepsi’s goal was to re-energize football fans and build upon their already burgeoning appetite for football after a long off-season, then the video was certainly a success. The passion and intensity of David Costabile was enough to excite even those who thought a “blitz package” had something to do with a food processor.

While the approach clearly aligned with Pepsi’s typically fun and irreverent personality, it didn’t do or say anything about the brand which significantly altered people’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.

Pepsi Made for Football Watching ft. David Costabile - Ad Testing - Compel


What’s the learning for marketers?

Long-form film holds special appeal because it affords advertisers the ability to flex their creative muscles, and to invest in storytelling and emotion without needing to conform to the strict requirements of broadcast media.

However, success – in terms of brand impact – is predicated on viewers being rewarded for their time. Twists and turns, protagonists and antagonists, and stories built on human truths are ways to ensure viewers remain involved and attentive. Extra Gum successfully delivered on this in its post-lockdown epic.

Pepsi could benefit by building greater tension straight off the bat, perhaps by leveraging a more unique insight, before launching into (a condensed version of) David’s impassioned plea.

Much like Tom Brady methodically moving the chains down the field to lead the Buccaneers to Super Bowl victory against the gun-slinging Chiefs, brands would benefit from ensuring the foundational ingredients for advertising success aren’t forgotten when creative juices are allowed to start flowing.

Pepsi Made for Football Watching ft. David Costabile - Ad Testing - Performance Summary

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