It is widely agreed that you can’t plan for a brand activation to go viral. There are too many independent variables. This is especially true for sports activations, where fan experience can be fundamentally affected by the weather, the atmosphere, and the outcome of the game.
You can consistently produce engaging brand activations that have a good chance of going viral, and that’s the best you can do. There’s no way to predict which activations will go viral and which will fall flat. As they say in baseball – you win some, you lose some. After all, it was baseball hall-of-famer Lefty Gomez who coined the phrase, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Having a brand activation go viral is largely about being in the right place at the right time. That’s exactly what Pepsi did when they launched their #HeyBatterBatter photo activation mid-way through the historic World Championship run by last year’s Chicago Cubs.
Riding the Wave
Chicago was overcome with Cubs fever, as the Cubs’ signature blue “W” appeared on homes and buildings all over the metro area. The Cubs also picked up steam as an internet phenomenon, lighting up social media and eventually becoming the single most searched for sports team of 2016.
Television ratings reflected the wave of interest the Cubs were generating. In their NLDS series against the Giants, the Cubs broke the FS1 single event viewership record – peaking at 7 million viewers. That record was shattered a week later when a peak 12.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the Cubs win their NLCS series against the Dodgers. When the Cubs finally closed the door on the Indians in game 7 of the World Series, the broadcast was the most viewed baseball game in 25 years – peaking at 49.9 million viewers.
The environment in Chicago was perfectly primed for a sports activation, and Pepsi showed up all over the city with one of the most engaging and shareable activations they’ve done.
Enhancing an Electric Fan Experience
Pepsi’s #HeyBatterBatter photo opportunity was a larger-than-life recreation of the outfield seats in Wrigley, in front of a replica of the stadium’s vintage 1937 scoreboard. Fans were encouraged to take video and photograph each other while doing the famous “Hey, batter, batter” chant that Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye called out while watching the Cubs play during Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Any fan who shared a picture or video from the activation with the #HeyBatterBatter hashtag was entered for a chance to win Cubs playoff tickets on the spot.
The activation was simple, but it tugged firmly on the nostalgia and folklore surrounding Chicago Cubs culture. No high-tech bells and whistles, just a classic photo op in the right place at the right time. The activation became an instant social success – generating 885 direct engagements that resulted in more than 750,000 social impressions.
Reaping the Rewards for Creative Activations
With Pepsi’s long history of being a leader in sports marketing, the brand has received its share of awards and recognitions. And they were back up on the podium last month in Chicago to accept a silver Ex Award from Event Marketer magazine for the best use of guerilla/street marketing for their #HeyBatterBatter activation.
We probably haven’t seen the last memorable Cubs fan experience from Pepsi. The Cubs are one of 11 MLB teams that have exclusive soft drink sponsorship agreements with Pepsi. If the Cubs return to the World Series anytime soon, you can be sure that Pepsi will be there too with another creative fan experience.