Viewers tuning into Empire last night (Nov. 18) were introduced to a new storyline. Middle son Jamal (Jussie Smollet) landed a commercial deal with Pepsi after being named the beverage company’s next breakthrough artist. The My Bad Parts episode also marked the first integration in Pepsi’s real-life sponsorship of the popular Fox television series.
Announced in August, Pepsi’s official sponsorship for season two includes in-show integrations, digital and social extensions and a multi-platform off-air marketing partnership. Pepsi also serves as Empire’s official beverage sponsor both on- and off-air. The company joined Empire’s returning official sponsor, the Lincoln Motor Company.
“Pepsi has always been synonymous with pop culture,” says Emma Quigley, head of music at PepsiCo (U.S.). “This integration is a real evolution of what we’ve been doing and also transformative in the way that brands and television shows could work together in the future. It’s a natural fit with what’s being conveyed in the show’s storyline.”
Rolling out across three episodes as of the Nov. 18 airing, Pepsi’s first sponsorship integration encompasses the filming of a commercial starring Smollet’s character Jamal. The build-up — including Jamal composing an original song with acrimonious input from dad Lucious and mom Cookie to land the coveted sponsorship — culminates on the Dec. 2 episode when the finished commercial airs within the show. A second commercial, replicating the first and starring Smollett as himself, is on tap to run on Fox outside of the show. The commercials’ director: Empire co-creator Lee Daniels.
Titled “Ready to Go,” the commercial’s track is an original song written and produced by Swizz Beatz who joined Empire’s music team this season. “The track starts with a slow walk,” explains Beatz, “to focus attention on Jussie/Jamal’s vocals and the emotion of what he’s singing about — being ready to go to the next level. Then it crescendos into this burst of energy.”
Columbia Records’ Empire: Original Soundtrack, Season 2 Volume 1 arrives Nov. 20.