Pepsi Announces Deal as Part of Racial Equality Initiative With Southwestern Athletic Conference, Thanks to a Little Help From Deion Sanders

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Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders, left, confers with quarterback Quincy Casey (8) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Edward Waters in Jackson, Miss., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021.
Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders, left, confers with quarterback Quincy Casey (8) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Edward Waters in Jackson, Miss., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021.

With the Jackson State Tigers playing on ESPN for the first time since the 1980s, coach Deion Sanders didn’t exactly have the weekend he had hoped for after his team got blown out 34-14 by Southern. But even though Jackson State caught a vicious L on Saturday, they still have plenty to celebrate.

From USA Today:

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Pepsi announced on Monday it has become the primary beverage sponsor for all SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) football and basketball championship games through 2023. The three-year deal, according to the company, is a component of the brand’s Racial Equality Journey, a series of initiatives the corporation launched in April 2020 with a pledge of $400 million over five years.

Sanders has a relationship with Pepsi that goes back to the ’90s, and the Pro Football Hall of Famer played a key role in leveraging that partnership into sponsorship that benefits the entire conference.

“We’ve been in a relationship for a long time,” he told USA Today. “And this just takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Back in the 1990s, like every year, it’s been about me. But now it’s not just about me. It’s about us. And that’s a beautiful thing, man. I love it.”

While the legendary cornerback might love the fact that he’s in a position to help draw much-needed attention and resources to HBCUs, his transition into a college football coach hasn’t been without its fair share of obstacles. His Tigers (3-2) are in the midst of a two-game losing streak and he drew criticism last August for calling out both student and professional athletes for opting out of playing last season due to COVID-19.

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“Sports are integral to Pepsi’s DNA, and we’re honored to join the SWAC family as main beverage partners,” Derek Lewis, President, South Division of PepsiCo Beverages North America, said in a statement. “As an HBCU graduate myself, I am proud to help foster growth among these students to prime them for success – and to bring fans and consumers incredible experiences and memories.”

Hopefully, this inspires other corporations to follow suit and invest in HBCUs.