Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
For many fans, stadiums are home. For the NFL's 2020 season kickoff, Pepsi wanted to tell the story of what happens to fans when home is no longer a place they can go. Pepsi teamed up with Ryan Shazier to surprise Steelers season ticket holders the Dougherty's with their real seats from the stadium. Brand Storytelling caught up with the Pepsi brand's Director of Equity and Culture Communications Kyle Lazarus to learn more about this piece of heartwarming and timely content:
How did Pepsi connect with the Steelers to pursue this storytelling opportunity?
The brand has a great relationship with the Steelers. The Made for Football Watching campaign, and by extension, the Every Game is a Home Game short film, is all about fans for whom football is an integral part of their lives. We recognized how football this year will look different for all fans, but especially for those families that are multi-generational in their love of a team. Steelers nation is a special fanbase, and we were excited to connect with the team to find the right opportunity for this idea. We were lucky to find the Dougherty family, and we were honored and humbled to be able to tell a small part of their story.
What department at Pepsi does a production like this come out of? What does the team look like that’s responsible for the production and execution of this kind of content?
Only through seamless collaboration, communication, and team work, regardless of org charts, are projects like these possible. This story took a village across our Brand, Communications, and Sports Marketing teams in addition to our agency partners at Acceleration Community of Companies, Genesco Sports Enterprises, and VaynerMedia.
What was VaynerMedia’s role in this process?
VaynerMedia is a close and trusted partner of the Pepsi brand. We worked collaboratively with them to bring this idea to life throughout all phases of the project, from a co-authored brief, ideation, production all the way to execution.
How did you settle on focusing on the Dougherty family? Tell us more about how putting them at the center of the story played out.
The Dougherty family has a beautiful and difficult story to tell; one that we felt compelled to tell because their strength in the face of so much difficulty. It’s the type of story that needs to be told and can inspire others. Their passion for and dedication to the Steelers fit perfectly with the message that we were telling to fans around the NFL – that this year, things may be different, but the love of the sport and community is something that cannot be taken away, and that joy can be found when you persevere. Working with the Steelers and our film director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, we cast a wide net around the city and talked in depth with a lot of folks to find the right story to tell.
What did the collaborative end of the development process look like when working with the Steelers?
The Steelers were very receptive and engaged when we presented the concept. They were incredible partners in connecting us with Ryan Shazier and helped us figure out the logistics for this project, from bringing the Dougherty’s their seats from Heinz Field to capturing stadium footage during such unusual times.
What are Pepsi’s guiding principles when producing a piece of content like this?
Pepsi is a brand known for a legacy in sports and our commitment to providing fans with incredible experiences and entertainment is a priority in everything we do. We always want to stay true to our core values as a brand, and the insight that drives this campaign – the idea of the community of loyal, unapologetic football watchers, especially in the face of such difficult times – made this possible. Balancing our brand’s POV on unapologetic enjoyment alongside the Dougherty’s story was the unique and delicate challenge of the project and is what made this video so special.
Was it a challenge to produce this content while executing on a safety-critical shooting protocol due to Coronavirus? What production techniques were employed to ensure the safety of everyone involved?
PepsiCo’s top priority is always the safety of everyone involved in bringing the story to life. We have a strict set of guidelines and rules that were developed across PepsiCo to ensure production was safe. The process definitely created new hurdles and challenges but our larger team operated within these new rules with such grace and still created an incredibly impactful film.
What kind of feedback have you received from fans of the brand and/or the Steelers?
It has been amazing to see the overwhelmingly positive responses from Pepsi fans on social and from Steeler nation and from media outlets around the country. The Dougherty’s have the kind of football story that is worth telling, hearing, celebrating and rewarding, and we were proud to be able to work with them. We are blown away at the response and how it matched our creative enthusiasm – it’s what continues to motivate our team to keep telling these amazing stories.
About Kyle Lazarus
Kyle Lazarus is currently Director of Equity and Culture Communications on the Pepsi brand at PepsiCo. He leads the consumer marketing agenda around sports, music, entertainment, in addition to overseeing Pepsi’s social media presence. Kyle started his career at The Barbarian Group before moving to Samsung Electronics North America and then to Anheuser-Busch where he led Digital Marketing for Bud Light.