Pepsi Fumbles Context of NFL Playoffs

Context and relevancy are supposed to be the next big things. But even in the world of TV, where programming is known months in advance, brands still drop the ball — like Pepsi did in the NFL conference championship broadcasts last week.

Context and relevancy are supposed to be the next big things. But to actually serve contextually relevant content isn’t just a challenge for personalized, digital media. Even in the world of TV, where programming is known months in advance, brands still drop the ball — like Pepsi did in the NFL conference championship broadcasts last week.

For Sunday’s NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, played between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles, Pepsi seemed to run just one commercial: A Dallas Cowboys spot that ran at least three times during the game in the Philadelphia area:

So, OK, somewhere the ad buyer said, “This is an NFL game, run our best performing NFL commercial.” What’s the big deal?

Well, that was silly for a bunch of reasons. Not least of which is that the Cowboys didn’t even make the playoffs this year. So, most of their fans aren’t tuning in.

What makes it even worse is this was a game that drew heavy Minnesota and Philadelphia audiences. Sure, fans from across the country watched too, but I bet Philly and Minnesota fans made up half of the audience.

And all of those viewers have one thing in common: They don’t like the Dallas Cowboys.

Minnesota fans have some history with Dallas.

And Eagles fans … well former Eagle Bennie Logan said it best:

Former Eagle Bennie Logan on the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.
Former Eagle Bennie Logan on the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.

Pepsi running this commercial over and over again to Eagles and Vikings fans isn’t just ineffective, it’s insulting. Pepsi might as well have run a Coke ad.

The thing is, in the past, this was OK. You may even think it’s OK today. But it’s not going to be OK tomorrow.

If we’re going to meet the challenges of relevance at the personal level, we need to get our heads out of the sand about marketing at the macro level. You’re never going to bring effective relevancy to your digital content if you can’t recognize that a Dallas commercial was a bad idea this playoff season.

Understand what’s going on with your audience when they’re engaging with your marketing. Why are they there? What do they need? What’s happening around them? That’s what’s going to make your marketing stand out in the years ahead.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

8 thoughts on “Pepsi Fumbles Context of NFL Playoffs”

  1. I agree it was dumb. I would love to hear the reasoning that went on at the round table leading up to them deciding to run with this. Advertisers need a plan B, an emergency option for things like this. It could be a world event or whatever. Just have something else ready to roll. Even a simple dumb ass ad with 2 kids sitting on a step drinking pepsi and laughing would be better. Any 2 kids.They had plenty of time to figure out that they needed a different ad. That being said the whole country watched! Fans of MN and PH are a small slice of the total football fans tuning in. Lets not blow it out of proportion.

    1. My guess is they looked at the overall ad metrics for the year and decided this one performed best. But this is a case where I think context needs to trump past performance.

  2. The audience for that game was national so Pepsi needed to run an ad campaign that would universally appeal to the NFL fan demo. They just screwed up and ran a regional spot. Basic stuff.

  3. There’s no more a generic football team than Dallas. The cheerleaders, the look, everything. But yeah, a truly bone-headed move. Are you sure an AI bot didn’t program it?

  4. Certainly an example of when relevancy might actually trump data/metrics. Perhaps a non-sports themed Pepsi ad would have been a better (more appropriate) option. That way no one is being offended or pissed off.

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