Pepsi Max Takes Uncle Drew Viral Video to TV and the NBA Finals


Pepsi appears to be maxing out with a clever five-minute YouTube video sensation that has been re-cut into a 30-second commercial this week on the hottest ticket on television: the NBA Finals.

The original video (produced by Omnicom branded entertainment agency Davie Brown Entertainment) depicts what seems to be an aged gym rat named “Uncle Drew” who wows a pickup basketball game with crossover dribbles, slam dunks and other exploits unheard-of for such a grizzled veteran. And it turns out, in a sort of Candid Camera moment, that Uncle Drew of course isn’t who he seems to be. He’s NBA Rookie of the Year and Cleveland Cavaliers breakout star Kyrie Irving.[more]

Pepsi Max uploaded the video on YouTube on May 18th, just a few days after Irving won the rookie award in a landslide, and attracted 5.4 million views by May 31st. Since then, the viral sensation has been watched about 10 million times on YouTube and just about everyone “likes” it. It also has spawned new vernacular such as, “I get buckets.”

Pepsi — which overall is proving lighter on its feet in marketing these days — seized an unprecedented opportunity: taking a video from long-form and word of mouth and quickly tailoring it into a TV ad. There’s been lots of interplay between online-only video campaigns and TV, of course, such as the series of Chevrolet videos for the new Sonic last fall that got edited down into a Super Bowl spot in February.

But Pepsi’s move marked the most-speculative move in that direction by a major TV advertiser. “We uploaded the video two days after Kyrie [Irving] received” the award, Sam Duboff, a Pepsi spokesman, told Ad Age. “Once we started looking at the metrics, it became clear that we couldn’t miss the opportunity to bring Uncle Drew to the sport’s biggest stage.”

The first appearance of the Pepsi Max ad, during Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, spawned huge interest on Twitter already with searches for #uncledrew and Kyrie Irving. Looks like Uncle Drew has created a real slam dunk for Pepsi.

Below, watch Iriving’s first video for Pepsi Max, posted on YouTube in February: