Two soda cans walk into Ball Arena and seat themselves courtside to watch a Denver Nuggets game.
No, it’s not the setup for a silly joke.
It’s what functional-soda brand Olipop did last month to crash a consumer space long dominated by team sponsor PepsiCo.
Launched in 2018 and backed by such notables as Mindy Kaling and Gwyneth Paltrow, Olipop contains botanicals, plant fiber and gut-friendly prebiotics.
When vice president of marketing Graham Neuburger birthed the arena idea, he figured the company would hire a couple of influencers to don soda costumes.
That’s when external Olipop content strategist Sara Crane and the company's influencer coordinator, Izzy Yellin, decided to pitch themselves to carry out the caper—as seen in this TikTok video.
“If we get tackled by security, that’s fine,” said Yellin. “If we need to go to jail for Olipop, we will.”
In this interview, edited for brevity and clarity, Crane and Steven Vigilante, Olipop’s head of business development, explain how things played out in-stadium and on ESPN.
CPG Insider: You actually pivoted from an original idea involving a more subtle merchandising ploy. Please explain.
Crane: We originally were thinking about wearing the can [costumes], but when we looked into it we were, like there’s no way they’re going to let us through security.
So our backup plan was to wear Olipop jerseys and custom Nikes that had Olipop branding and the names of a couple of different flavors. I flew to Denver from Los Angeles during a snowstorm and the [backpup] outfits were supposed to be shipped. but they didn’t make it. So we decided to chance it and wear the can costumes.
CPG Insider: How did that go?
Crane: As we were going through security, no one said anything to us negatively. Everyone was like ‘that’s a cool costume. What’s Olipop?’ People were really entertained by it.
We sat in the front row. When the players were warming up, Izzy was like “they’re all staring. We’re turning heads.” But no one said anything to us until halfway through the game. Someone who worked for the Nuggets very nicely asked us to take off the costumes because he was getting calls from colleagues—and maybe sponsors, I’m not sure—saying that they saw us on TV.
CPG Insider: How would you measure the results of this kind of activation?
Vigilante: I think perfect marketing is a blend of very data-driven, analytical, KPI-driven marketing and some, like, gut marketing. This would definitely fall in the second bucket.
We’re not necessarily measuring eyeballs—although we could probably figure that out if we tried hard enough. It was more like. are people talking about it? These videos performed very well for us on TikTok. We weren’t trying to hit a number of views, but it ended up being really good TikTok fodder for us.
CPG Insider: Would you do it again?
Vigilante: From my perspective, it went really well. I had a bunch of investors reach out to me about it. It’s definitely something we’ll explore again—maybe in a different format or venue. But for sure it’s in the toolkit now.