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Unless you’ve attended an HBCU, or at the very least an HBCU game, you can’t fully comprehend just how lively the atmosphere is whenever the marching band plays.

It’s much, much more than this attempted “swag surf” (can we even call it that?) from the Auburn student section during their football game against Alabama last month.

Pepsi has been a major sponsor of the entertainment industry, most notably with its $2 billion deal with the NFL to sponsor Super Bowl Halftime shows dating back to 2012. The agreement is set to expire after the 2022 season.

Now, the iconic pop-cultural beverage brand is shifting its attention to highlighting HBCU culture in a first-ever national TV ad set to air this Saturday. The $3 million 60-second ad will air during this weekend’s much anticipated Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship game on ESPN2 between Prairie View and Jackson State.

The ad, called the “Halftime Show”, features FAMU and Jackson State University’s band while highlighting “the electricity and history they bring to game day,” according to a press release from Pepsi.

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The ad is a part of the company’s Racial Equality Journey commitment that was announced in 2020 where more than $570 million was pledged over the next five years to “elevate diverse voices within the company, supply chain partners, and communities while helping to address issues of inequality and create opportunity.”

“At PepsiCo, we’ve committed to supporting HBCUs year-round, and I’m honored to help shine a light on these marching bands with this new spot airing during one of the largest games of the season,” said Chauncey Hamlett, CMO/VP of PBNA, South Division. “We wanted to spotlight these two incredible bands because we know that in HBCU culture, the game is not just about football, but also the energy, hype, and history these bands bring to halftime and beyond.” 

“This ad campaign provides a fitting showcase for two exceptional music programs,” said Dr. Shelby Chipman, FAMU Director of Bands. “Our marching band students are committed to excellence in the classroom and performing on the field. This campaign celebrates their dedication and talent. Fans of the incomparable Marching’ 100? will be pleased.”

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Former Kentucky State University football player James Jenkins described the experience of an HBCU marching band to The Black Wall Street Times like this: 

“As a former HBCU football player, the pageantry, brotherhood, the grit, and history is something I still think about till this day….still miss it actually.


The relationship between an HBCU football program and the band goes hand in hand. We always go back and forth about who really brings people to the games, but the contribution that the band brings can never go unnoticed. 

The use of one’s gifts to the max is another point I’d like to highlight. Other than being able to play so well that they’re inspiring a future band member or play so loud the next town would hear those beautiful sounds, dancing/performing as a cohesive unit from the stands to the field is quite a sight to see. I’m talking about song battles between the band and their opposition, or even battles between opposing sections as well.” 

It is true that people do stay to watch the halftime show — compared to non-HBCUs, where people go to the concession stands. 

Never forget the “Fifth-Quarter” is where the bands perform against each other one last time to see who really is the best band…

Kentucky State University 

Mighty Marching Thorobreds “MMT”

Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs that helped give him a...

6 replies on “Pepsi celebrates HBCU bands with first-ever commercial”

  1. It makes me sad and angry that Pepsi is using the false notion of promoting HBCU culture when all they are doing is tapping into a huge, new market for soda sales. All soda companies advertise heavily in black communities. Make no mistake, if Pepsi were really interested in doing good for the HBCU community, they would give support with no strings attached. Or they would address the chronic health issues debilitating communities of color, like obesity and diabetes–both of which sugary drinks are a major contributor. They dangle a carrot in terms of financial support to gain access to a new pool of customers. Sad.

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