Janelle Monae from her new Pepsi spot filmed in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Pepsi)
Janelle Monae has already gone Brazilian for the just-released “Rio 2” soundtrack as the voice of its theme song “What Is Love.” But starting Wednesday, the singer is making an on-camera trip to Rio de Janeiro as the featured artist (and soundtrack) of Pepsi’s global 2014 futbol campaign “Now Is What You Make It.”
In the 90-second spot debuting in 100 countries, Monae can be seen and heard on the streets of Rio singing a Brazilian-inflected cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which is also available for purchase on iTunes worldwide today. The commercial features appearances from Pepsi’s all-star soccer lineup, including Robin van Persie, David Lutz, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Aguero, Jack Wilshire and four-time player of the year Leo Messi. An interactive, documentary-like version of the commercial, featuring U.S. star Clint Dempsey, provides even more content for fans to unlock, including a full-length version of Monae’s “Heroes” video.” The clip is available at pepsi.com/futbolnow.
“It was really cool,” Monae tells Billboard of the star-studded shoot. “I admire all the players and soccer and just sports in general. The teamwork those players experience is very similar to how I have my own business, my recording label, my band and how we’re a team and when we have great shows at places like South by Southwest we can all just share in that moment and remember it for the rest of our lives. I was just excited to be amongst other people who can understand what that feels like.”
Monae’s Wondaland Production unit produced the new version of “Heroes,” she added. “We all loved the original so much, however we wanted to put some Atlanta in it, some down South in it, and a little bit of Rio in it and make it our own. We love David Bowie, and he’s a fan as well, so we just wanted to make him proud.”
Monae is no stranger to working with brands , particularly in the past 12 months alone – from a long-term endorsement deal with Cover Girl to an “Unstaged” performance for American Express to a deluxe edition of “The Electric Lady” for Target to a series of commercials for Sonos to just last month, an intimate performance for Samsung at -concert-series-janelle-monae-gary-clark-jr-more">South by Southwest. And if you go several years back to 2009, you might recall Monae was one of several artists (alongside Cee-Lo Green, Butch Walker and Travie McCoy) to appear in a spot for Pepsi’s arch-rival Coca-Cola performing the original jingle “Open Happiness.”
Monae insists she’s still “very particular” in choosing her corporate partners. “I don’t work with just any brand, and of course when I’m approached it has to be a mutual feeling. I’m a big fan of Pepsi and the lineup from Beyonce to Michael [Jackson] to all the incredible artists, so just to be asked to stand alongside them is great. And I got a chance to do music that I wanted to do, so I get to keep my brand. And the brand I’m partnering with helps bring wings and legs and arms to my ideas. That’s always inspiring to see your ideas soar and helping get them out into the world.”
It’s no coincidence that Pepsi’s soccer-themed, Brazilian-based campaign arrives on the heels of the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Rio De Janeiro. But since Pepsi is not an official sponsor of FIFA or the World Cup (that’s Coke’s territory, and the brand has already rolled out several versions of its official World Cup anthem, you won’t see any official mention of the big game in its marketing materials. Such loopholes have already inspired successful music-and-soccer campaigns for Pepsi in recent years – most notably, Calvin Harris and Ne Yo’s top 20 2012 hit “Let’s Go,” which was initially commissioned by Pepsi Max for a European soccer campaign.
“We were inspired by the power and unity that sports and music bring to the world,” Kristin Patrick, Pepsi global chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Global Beverage Group, said in a statement. “Our content plan to capture this spirit celebrates the creative passion of footballers with music and how both of these awesome forces inspire us to Live For Now. We have a long history of working with the world’s best football talent to create stunning creative that sparks conversations and creates indelible moments that engage and excite football all over the world.”