"Uncle Drew" is coming back to get more buckets.
Pepsi originally signed Irving to a local marketing deal during his rookie of the year season. But Irving became a national star when he executed the role of "Uncle Drew" to perfection. The idea behind the campaign was to highlight that Pepsi Max was a zero-calorie soda in disguise.
The highly acclaimed webisodes, which also have co-starred Kevin Love as "Wes," Maya Moore as "Betty Lou" and Nate Robinson as "Lights," have garnered more than 50 million YouTube hits on Pepsi's official channel alone, and millions more elsewhere.
"The success of 'Uncle Drew' changed the way all of us at Pepsi now think of digital marketing," said Adam Harter, vice president of consumer engagement at the company. "It comes at a time where advertising is going from the interruptive model of trying to get your attention while you are watching something that you want to watch to a model that is more inviting, where people actually want to watch the engaging content that you produce."
In 2013, the Uncle Drew campaign won the Gold Award in the branded content category at the Addy Awards, the world's largest advertising competition. The campaign also won the silver in the same category at the Cannes Lions International Ad Festival.
As part of the new multiyear deal, "Uncle Drew" now will be attached to the greater Pepsi brand, and the company is expected to further leverage the character in retail, such as on point-of-purchase displays.
"Fans can obviously see his talent on the court, but 'Uncle Drew' validated his talent off of it," said marketing agent Colin Smeeton, who struck the deal.
The "Uncle Drew" spots are overseen by Irving, agent Jeff Wechsler, Smeeton and Perry Rogers of PR Partners, as well as Pepsi's ad firm Davie Brown.
Both Irving's representation and Pepsi attempted to trademark the "Uncle Drew" name early on, but the sides abandoned their filings in the name of a greater partnership.
With LeBron James and Love joining the Cavaliers, the marketing spotlight is even brighter on Irving. He has a signature Nike shoe being released in January, and incoming Foot Locker CEO Dick Johnson told analysts on an earnings call Friday that "we're seeing the beginning of what we expect could be a significant Kyrie Irving business in the future."
As for Love's character "Wes" or a character of James finding their way into future episodes?
Don't bank on it.
Love since signed to endorse sports drink BodyArmor, and James gets paid by Pepsi's competitor Coca-Cola.