Why Front Office Sports and Pepsi are taking a B2B approach to Super Bowl marketing


Pepsi is giving young sports industry professionals a look into the company’s sports marketing strategy through Front Office Sports’ new course-style offering, FOS Essentials.

Set to launch this week ahead of the Super Bowl, the online course will cover sports marketing essentials from the perspective of Pepsi’s marketing leads.

Unlike most publisher-run courses that end with some degree of certification, FOS Essentials will be free to audiences who after completing the approximately 8-hour long lesson plan will be awarded a badge they can post on their Linkedin profiles.

And since there is no consumer revenue associated with the program, FOS is making this a solely sponsored product. To date, this is one of the largest partnerships that FOS has signed, according to Adam White, the sports business publisher’s CEO and founder. He declined to disclose how much the deal is worth.

This is also the publisher’s first course, though the hope is to make it a quarterly product that is sponsored by one or more brands, like the debut with Pepsi.

Each lesson of the first course — covering topics from esports to athlete partnerships to Gatorade’s Super Bowl marketing strategy — consists of an 8 to 10-minute long video as well as a series of written prompts and tests that are co-produced by the team at Pepsi.

They are meant to be “snackable” pieces of content, according to White, but also “supplementary to what you already learned in school or as a professional.”

To start out, FOS Essentials will use the FOS daily newsletter amplification to get in front of prospective students and Pepsi will be sponsoring some editions of that as well.

White said that newsletters will be the main focus for marketing the FOS Essentials courses because that audience is rapidly growing, having increased by 900% in 2020 and is pacing to hit 500,000 total subscribers by mid-year. It’s current open rate toggles between 35-40%, he added.

“We’re understanding that we’re selling newsletters and that’s our main revenue generator from a media perspective, but that is also a direct relationship that we have with our audience to drive other deeper partnerships,” White said.

As for Pepsi this year, the company — not to be mistaken for its parent company PepsiCo which is still sponsoring the Super Bowl Halftime show — has completely shifted its marketing strategy to not run any ads for during the pinnacle advertising event of the year.

“Pepsi is reimagining their overall sports commitments and is sitting out the Super Bowl this year. Instead they are donating money to a coronavirus relief fund. Now they’re developing educational programs for the sports fan,” said Barry Lowenthal, CEO of media buying agency The Media Kitchen.

Typically, the soft drink company’s approach to the Super Bowl includes a business-to-business element but it is usually limited to in-person events and hosting guests at the Super Bowl, said Justin Toman, head of sports marketing at Pepsi.

Being limited to what in-person activations could look like, Toman said there was an opportunity to do more in the space that reaches a larger online audience and positions “Pepsi as a thought leader and activation leader” in sports marketing.

“This is a brand that doesn’t need awareness, they need engagement and to deepen relationships with their customers. They are connecting in ways that matter to their customers like relief contributions and supporting new ways to learn passions,” said Lowenthal. “They’ve realized that in a post-covid world — sports means something very different.”


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