PepsiCo is readying itself for a swift U-turn on its NFL marketing in the US if the new season is cut short by the coronavirus.

The company, which has sponsored the NFL through its Pepsi brand for almost two decades, told just-drinks this week that in the event of disruption, it will switch to a campaign focussing on pairing Pepsi with food. The approach would replace PepsiCo’s current NFL activation, which targets consumers watching sport at home.

Speaking to just-drinks yesterday, Umi Patel, CMO for PepsiCo Beverage North America’s north division, said the company has already revised original plans for the 2020-21 NFL season after coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March. However, Patel said the company is ready should new restrictions force another change.

“We hope that doesn’t happen, but we’re living in a world of the unknown,” Patel told just-drinks. “Our contingency plan is, we’re going to continue to support American Football and, if for some reason the season is cancelled, we’re still going to celebrate Pepsi and people gathering together. The association with food is critical, so we’re going to continue to celebrate the role that Pepsi plays with food and friends.”

The NFL season is one of the group’s biggest marketing investments of the year. This year’s season has been adjusted so it could be shortened in case of coronavirus outbreaks. Fans will not be allowed into stadiums to watch games.

Patel also told just-drinks that PepsiCo has frontloaded its NFL marketing spend to the first six weeks of the season in case of disruption. She also said the company is continuing under the assumption that February’s Super Bowl will go ahead.

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“The plan is that the Super Bowl will happen as scheduled,” Patel said. “We’re starting the discussions around what the contingency could look like for that. I would say that’s very much still a work in progress.”

To read the full interview with Patel, click here.

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