Pepsi’s viral “Uncle Drew” ad campaign featuring NBA star Kyrie Irving is taking new form: a full-length movie slated for release June 29.
It remains to be seen just how much the Pepsi brand will be woven into the script, but a new preview offers some clues, such as a Pepsi sign at an outdoor basketball tournament.
The Uncle Drew campaign, which cast Irving as an old man who can seriously hoop, debuted in 2012 as a five-minute online video promoting Pepsi Max. As reported early last year, PepsiCo’s Creators League studio has been working with Temple Hill Entertainment to get the character on the big screen. Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment is also involved.
The film stars Irving, along with NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Reggie Miller, plus Nate Robinson, a former NBA player who spent time with teams including the Knicks, Celtics and Bulls. Former WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie is also in the movie, along with actors Milton “Lil Rel” Howery and Tiffany Haddish. Howery plays a character who convinces Uncle Drew to return to the court one last time for a streetball tournament in Harlem. The duo hit the road to reunite Drew’s old squad.
PepsiCo formed the Creators League unit in 2016 to serve as an internal production arm for scripted series, films, music recordings, reality shows and other content. Some of it is heavily branded, like Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercial earlier this month. But some content has little branding, such as a short documentary film called “The Rugby Boys of Memphis” that was backed by PepsiCo’s Gatorade and shown at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. The Creators League was also behind Pepsi’s widely mocked Kendall Jenner ad, which was pulled quickly last year amid criticism.
The Creator’s League was started by Brad Jakeman, PepsiCo’s former global beverage group president, with the aim of creating both branded content and unbranded content that could earn revenue to be poured back into marketing. Jakeman left the company late last year.