As The Africa Cup of Nations Kicks Off, Remember How Pepsi Trolled Coca-Cola With Super Eagles Sponsorship At The 2018 World Cup

Coke vs Pepsi Cover

Before the FIFA World Cup, Pepsi was the official sponsor of the Nigerian Super Eagles– this you knew. And when it came time to renew the multimillion naira contract, it was supposed to be easy-peasy because the lads were headed to Russia.

Plus, the Eagles would be wearing those sexy jerseys—the sexiest in the world—that were so hot most of us couldn’t even find to buy. What brand wouldn’t want to jump on that massive visibility? Well, as it turned out, definitely not Pepsi. The soda maker declined to give the NFF one single dime.

But outside the NFF and Pepsi, no one else knew what was going on per the sponsorship deal.

“…We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

So the NFF peacocked in front of Coca-Cola and made itself available and desirable. Coke took the bait. As the global sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, it would make perfect sense for Coke to also carry the Nigerian team and make it all complete. So, thinking they needed to outbid Pepsi, Coke plunked down 100m— according to sources who wouldn’t speak on the record because the deals were supposed to be private. 

But, as you’ve now heard or probably had predicted, the beloved Super Eagles crashed out in the first round. The most beautiful jersey in the world be damned. Our boys peaked too early and found themselves, to the chagrin of 200 million Nigerians, plummeting straight back down to earth. Again.

Meanwhile, as Coke tried to squeeze as much juice out of its basket of expenses, Pepsi hired a few in-form Nigerian singers and deejays, Alex Iwobi, and Jay-Jay Okocha to do a jingle.

Pepsi also designed a jersey for this group to wear. It made sure the jersey looked like, but couldn’t actually be accused of being a rip off of, the official national team jersey. And boom! Pepsi spun the jingle, with the accompanying film, into a hit marketing campaign for the World Cup. It must have cost them just about a third (or alright let’s say half) of what Coke had spent on its World Cup campaign.

And not even in one of the ads did they mention the Super Eagles, the World Cup, or FIFA because those Coke already bought the rights to those but everyone knew what was going on.

To add some salt to injury, suddenly, Coke must now react to Pepsi’s guerrilla blockbuster by hiring its own team of in-form Nigerian singers. They made their own anthem, Issa Goal, which of course Coke shelled out an extra bag of money to buy some mileage for. 

Add this to Coke’s viewing centre at Federal Palace, the many short digital ads, the main TVC, and the money it already paid FIFA and it’ll hit you like an ice-cold Coke hits your brain that Coca-Cola had spent an insane amount of money on the 2018 world cup in Nigeria. Damn.

Yet Pepsi wasn’t even competing. It looked like it had chosen to pivot away from sports sponsorship on the back of the biggest sporting event in the world. These days, Pepsi is more into other forms of entertainment—music, and parties mostly.

So, Coke 0, Pepsi 1?

This wouldn’t be the first time Pepsi would be forcing an error from Coke. But does Coke know it yet? Who knows. Those guys can play like they have nothing to lose.

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