The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Brand Strategy Uefa Champions League Media Planning and Buying

PepsiCo’s CMOs urge brands to elevate the football fan experience


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

June 6, 2024 | 5 min read

Football sponsorship used to be all about getting a logo on a field; now, say PepsiCo’s international CMOs, it’s about providing fan experiences that span way beyond the game.

Lenny Kravitz rocks out at the Uefa Champions League final kick-off show, by Pepsi

Lenny Kravitz rocks out at the Uefa Champions League final kick-off show, by Pepsi

Ahead of the Uefa Champions League final earlier this month, The Drum sat down with PepsiCo’s Mark Kirkham, who is chief marketing officer of PepsiCo International Beverages, and his counterpart at International Foods, Mustafa Shamseldin.

Pepsi cocktails, including Pepsi Coladas* and an Agua Fresca, were sampled, along with cookie dough Doritos nachos.

Here is what the pair had to say about the changing nature of sports sponsorship.

“Having a property like Uefa Championship allows us to activate throughout the year, to really celebrate the brand’s association with football, our relationship with talent, athletes and all of the things that have made this passion point and the culture of football and Pepsi come together,” explains Kirkham.

PepsiCo first sponsored the Uefa Champions League in 2015 and last year renewed its deal for another three-year cycle, taking its deal to 2027.

Sports sponsorship in 2024 is much more than the in-game media value. Historically, brands and right owners were concerned with getting logos on the sidelines. “That, to me, is just table stakes. That is the starting point to how you add value,” says Kirkham.

Shamseldin adds: “The viewers expect that it goes beyond just putting your logo somewhere; now, it’s what experience you are giving them and how you engage with them around the game. Consumers want the football-watching kitchen to be elevated, and they expect our brands to elevate them.”

When brands and rights holders first shifted to this new way of sponsorship deals it was all about content and storytelling, the pair explain. But now, the big trend is around offering people experiences, both physical and digital. “To me, the trend that every sponsor needs to embrace and figure out is how they can take advantage of this to make their brand more relevant in more spaces,” says Kirkham.

Stage for a gig at Trafalgar Square for Rockstar Energy Drink

PepsiCo’s Trafalgar takeover is one example; there was a Lay's photo op with David Beckham and Thierry Henry, as well as a Rockstar Energy Drink stage with Rudimental performing. Then there was the UEFA Champions League Final Kick off Show by Pepsi, which this year saw Lenny Kravitz take to the stage in Wembley. In digital, Pepsi has a deal with EA Sports FC for branded in-game events and activations. “It’s our desire to elevate the experience of watching the football game through our brands,” says Shamseldin.

How does PepsiCo measure ROI?

When calculating the return on investment for the Uefa deal, PepsiCo tracks in-store sales, analyzes the equity of each of its brands over time and tracks how well PepsiCo is associated with football in the minds of the public. PepsiCo will also look at the impact on its purpose objectives, including recycling and the progress made in women’s sports.

“But ultimately,” Kirkham adds. “It’s also the impact on business. So when we have our events and we’re able to surround Wembley with our products, it energizes our system.”

A further benefit from the Champions League sponsorship is the internal impact. “Our teams get so empowered and excited; the internal benefits are hard to measure but are really important,” Kirkham adds.

Beyond the media value of the Uefa deal, Kirkham tells The Drum how it helps PepsiCo meet its ESG commitments. For example, Gatorade puts on five-a-side tournaments that aim to keep kids in sports, while Lay's recycles crisp packets to make community football pitches, and then there is PepsiCo’s investment in women’s football.

“Platforms like the Champions League bring our brands’ purpose to life. It’s a huge opportunity for us not just to engage the brand but engage with more purposeful initiatives,” Kirkham says. “There’s no better opportunity than the Champions League final to dial that up.”

*(If anyone was wondering what a Pepsi Colada looks like, look no further...)

Pepsi cocktails
Brand Strategy Uefa Champions League Media Planning and Buying

More from Brand Strategy

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +