At a large organization like PepsiCo, change rarely comes quickly or easily. For more than a decade after its initial foray into esports (a partnership with Halo 3 back in 2007), the company relied almost exclusively on agencies and consultants to drive its nascent strategy. But while those outside partners worked directly with PepsiCo brand managers, the approach eventually proved untenable. “Over time as brand managers would rotate into other roles, we found that it would often create a disconnect in developing a larger and ongoing gaming strategy,” says Paul Mascali, head of esports and gaming at PepsiCo.
The turning point came in the fall of 2018, when Mascali joined PepsiCo’s media, sports and entertainment team from the gaming and virtual reality division of OMD USA, an Omnicom agency. It was the first role at the company dedicated to esports and gaming, timed just ahead of the launch of Mtn Dew Game Fuel energy drink, one of the first brands developed specifically for the gaming audience. “My role is similar to our people on the sports side who liaison with the National Football League or partner with musicians,” says Mascali. “I’m responsible for owning the direct relationships with [videogame] publishers, partners, teams, influencers and [esports] leagues, and making sure we’re showing up in authentic and meaningful ways.”
Mascali currently holds the only position dedicated to gaming across the company’s portfolio, but more roles on individual brand teams are beginning to focus on gaming specifically, he says. PepsiCo’s future plans include