Last Updated on May 2, 2023
Pepsi-Cola of Madison has renewed its sponsorship with Wisconsin Athletics as an Official Partner of the Wisconsin Badgers through the 2028-29 season. While pouring rights contracts are commonplace in college athletics, what is notable about Pepsi’s continued partnership with Wisconsin is its simultaneous commitment to supporting Badger athletes through name, image and likeness deals.
“We’re so excited to continue the partnership with Wisconsin,” said Tyler Hartmann, director of brand development for Pepsi-Cola of Madison. “With all the great things happening around UW Athletics and now through the development of NIL, we’re able to amplify student-athletes’ voices and champion their causes. As a partner, we’re creating a powerful bond of shared values of our brands and those of the Badgers.”
There’s been a great deal of discussion about how NIL deals with competitors of official partners might be treated but far less conversation on how current campus partners might include NIL commitment or education as part of their comprehensive strategy.
“We’re fortunate to have a number of corporate partners who have found value in building NIL campaigns into their marketing efforts, and our student-athletes have really benefitted from the chance to work with prominent brands like Pepsi in very valuable and visible ways,” said Brian Mason, the director of NIL strategy for Wisconsin Athletics
Pepsi has been engaging with Wisconsin athletes through NIL deals since the fall of 2021 and has worked with athletes in a variety of sports. Most recently, a social media marketing campaign in March 2023 featured student athletes from basketball, track and field, tennis and rowing promoting the new Starry lemon-lime soda. Another March campaign featured men’s basketball athletes Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl and Jordan Davis in a multi-channel marketing campaign for Mountain Dew.
Last fall, running back Braelon Allen and quarterback Graham Mertz participated in a statewide multi-channel marketing campaign for Pepsi. For 2023-24, Allen has been resigned along with the addition of quarterback Tanner Mordecai, and wide receivers Chimere Dike and C.J. Williams.
“I really enjoy working with a brand that not only supports our athletic program, but cares about the students and athletes that represent the Badgers both on and off the field,” said Allen.
Mason is encouraged by how Pepsi has taken its sponsorship to the next level by tapping into Wisconsin student athletes for its campaigns.
“Pepsi has truly embraced NIL, and I think the result has been mutually beneficial for Pepsi and the student-athletes,” said Mason. “The Badgers move the needle for people in Wisconsin, and Pepsi has tapped into that by featuring our student-athletes front and center in its marketing across the state, to great result. I know Pepsi plans to continue leaning in to NIL, and that’s good news for our student-athletes.”
Other campaigns so far for Pepsi have included All-American men’s basketball player Johnny Davis and his brother Jordan Davis for Mountain Dew in March of 2022, a social media campaign with volleyball All-American and national champion Devyn Robinson promoting Bubbl’r sparkling water.
Former athletic director, and founder of consulting firm College Sports Solutions, Jeff Schemmel (with whom I’ve previously consulted with on a pouring rights contract for another athletic department) says he expects to see more athletic department partners expanding their marketing plan to include NIL deals with student athletes.
“I think this is the first of many such partnerships, as universities and their athletic departments continue to look for ways to assist their student athletes in the ever-evolving NIL space. Typical university partners in categories such as pouring rights, multimedia rights, and others will continue to pursue these new and innovative partnerships. It is all part of the new world of intercollegiate athletics.”