Video case study: Pepsi Max gets 40m YouTube views with ‘Uncle Drew’ basketball star

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Pepsi is running a YouTube series capturing the life of an old man with seemingly supernatural basketball skills, attracting nearly 40 million views with brand engagement that extends far beyond a 30-second TV commercial.

Brand: Pepsi Max | Sector: FMCG, Food and Beverages | Country: US | Partner/agency: The Marketing Arm | Objective: brand awareness, consideration and purchase | Format: YouTube, Social Media, Video

The campaign, which first launched back in May 2012, centres around ‘ Uncle Drew’, a seemingly old-school grizzled basketball veteran.

Unbeknownst to his real-life basketball opponents, Drew is actually Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, who was named NBA’s 2012 Rookie of the Year.

The stories focus on ‘Drew’ being pitted against opponents who are unaware of his real identity, capturing their astonishment as the 65-year old blazes past defenders, delivers colossal dunks, and shoots three pointers.

For the third installment, Uncle Drew visits an underground jazz club in downtown Chicago to convince his old point guard "Lights" to re-live their glory days on the court. As usual, players and spectators at the basketball court were told only that they would be filmed for a "basketball documentary".

Pepsi Max worked with The Marketing Arm to develop a video that emphasised the product’s identity as a zero-calorie soda with bold taste.

The Marketing Arm’s vice president of content development, Marc Gilbar, read the brief and recalled the 1984 “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which Eddie Murphy went undercover as a white man. He thought doing something similar with Irving would be fun.

“We just thought, ‘What if we dressed him up as an 80-year-old man?’” Gilbar said. “On the surface, he’d be an 80-year-old man, but he could dunk and still play. That’s what the Pepsi Max brief was all about: You look at it and see one thing, but inside was something different.”

The Pepsi Max brand liked the idea of taking Irving undercover at a pickup game and approved a small budget for the video.

Collectively, the YouTube videos have notched up over 40 million views so far, since its launch in May last year, and show how long form video can provide real brand engagement beyond the traditional 30-second TV commercial format.

View the first two installments below;

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