PepsiMax+Irving/Uncle Drew Leverage New NBA Season

Pepsi Max’s fun loving geriatric baller is back again and ‘Uncle Drew: Chapter 3’ has already racked up an impressive five million YouTube views as the brand aims to leverage the new basketball season (and ambush official NBA drinks partner Sprite).


The third instalment in the blockbuster online short film series fronted by Cleveland Cavaliers star and Pepsi Max brand ambassador Kyrie Irving again sees Irving covered head-to-toe in Hollywood-style make up to transform into silver-haired old time baller Uncle Drew.


This six and half minute film sees Uncle Drew visit an underground smoky Chicago jazz club to persuade his old point guard ‘Lights’ (Denver Nuggets point guard Nate Roberts) to re-live their glory days on the court.


Both players (along with WNBS star Maya Moore playing Betty Lou) drop in on a local street court to school younger ballers and, as with the previous shorts, the other players and spectators at the court were told only that they would be filmed for a ‘basketball documentary.



The idea that lies behind the Pepsi Max campaign sits in the branded film’s tagline: ‘A Zero-Calorie Cola In Disguise’.


Chapter 3 was the second most viewed YouTube clip the week after it was posted – with LeBron James taking top spot with his Samsung ‘All Day / At Home’ ad (see case study) and third spot with his Nike ‘Training Day’ commercial (see case study), but it still has some way to go to match the phenomenal success of Uncle Drew’s first outing last May.


The original episode was the second most viewed ad on YouTube in 2012 with more than 27 million views (and is now pushing towards 30 million).



The idea for the campaign came in Spring 2012 when Pepsi Max sent a brief to The Marketing Arm asking the firm to develop a video to underscore the product’s identity as a ‘zero-calorie soda with bold taste’.


The brand team wanted to take a fresh approach and feature one of its newest endorsees – Cavaliers rookie Kyrie Irving and use him to front creative based on the idea that ‘you look at the product and see one thing, but inside it is something different’.


Irving, the 2011 NBA number one draft pick, signed a personal endorsement deal with Pepsi Max in April 2012 and according to the brand’s official press release back then it’s strategy was to feature him in ‘branded videos, extensive social media integration, retail activation, and more’.


The ensuing small budget spot was based on Pepsi Max taking Irving under cover as Uncle Drew to a real pick-up game in Bloomfield, New Jersey and pretended to shoot a documentary on a basketball player named ‘Kevin’ and when his Uncle Drew came into the game.


The sheer surprise of both spot viewer and live spectator was extraordinarily effective.


The five minute video was posted on the brand’s YouTube channel and when Irving tweeted it it quickly gained momentum.


The October follow up film, which added Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves to the cast as another former Uncle Drew teammate of Drew’s (alongside a cameo from retired Celtics legend Bill Russell) boasts nine million views since it premiered online last October.



It saw Uncle Drew visit a basketball legend who sends him on a Blues Brothers style mission to go out and get his old team back together.


His first stop was a genuine street game in Los Angeles where players and spectators were told that they would be filmed for some basketball b-roll footage for a local TV station.




The slight downward dip in YouTube views is largely inevitable for the third instalment of an online film which initially drove viewing through its element of surprise.


Yet, despite this less subtle ad’s slightly more knowing approach towards the expressions of the live spectators, there is considerable fun and enjoyment to be had from the creative and five million plus views in two weeks remains an impressive statistic that many brands would admire and desire.


After all, as the Marketing Arm’s VP Of Content Marc Gilbar says of the original film: ‘If we got one million views we would have been thrilled, but the numbers just accumulated and exceeded our wildest expectations.’


In fact, the idea was deemed so good by Pepsi Max that it applied a similar strategy to a sponsorship property it does own rights to – NASCAR.


This initiative saw NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon go undercover to a local car dealership and take a terrified car salesman on a thrill ride in a Chevrolet Camaro.



This video has been a smash hit too and has racked up more than 17 million views since its debut last month.


Lou Arbetter, senior director of marketing at Pepsi MAX, has said that when the brand first partnered with Irving and Jeff Gordon, PepsiMax simply thought it would be a fun project to work with the two athletes.


‘It’s incredible how quickly the videos went viral and became pop-culture moments,’ Arbetter said. ‘We allowed the content to grow organically and it truly took on a life of its own. We’re extremely happy with all the interest and conversations surrounding these properties.’


With such success, it is not surprising that Pepsi made the most of the marketing opportunity and took the long form online video which had spread through word of mouth and cyber buzz and turned it into a TV ad which ran during the 2012 NBA play offs.


How the advertising worm has turned!




Pepsi Max’s ‘Uncle Drew Part 3’ YouTube



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