The new commercial features Steve Carell and Cardi B.
Credit: Courtesy of Pepsi

The gridiron battle between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams won’t be the only turf war happening at Super Bowl LIII this weekend. Pepsi has been an NFL sponsor for over 35 years, and the exclusive sponsor of the Pepsi Halftime Show since 2013, which normally wouldn't be all that noteworthy, except that this year's big game happens to be taking place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Coca-Cola’s hometown of Atlanta, GA. Not only is Pepsi planning to “paint Atlanta blue” with advertising around the event (and giving out some sips of its experimental Nitro Pepsi), the cola company is also taking the opportunity to address a real-world Pepsi-versus-Coke incident that has cast shade upon the 126-year-old soda brand for decades: “Is Pepsi OK?”

Anyone, especially Coke and Diet Coke fans, who have sat down at a restaurant and casually ordered the soft drink by name know the situation well: The waitstaff, by rote after thousands of similar exchanges, asks “Is Pepsi OK?” It’s not even a question, so much as an admission that, if Coke is your preference, you’re about the be disappointed. It’s such a ubiquitous scene in our daily lives that it has transcended the Cola Wars of the 1980’s and streamed steadily onward into the Internet Age as part of meme culture. And Pepsi, it seems, has had enough.

With its Super Bowl ad campaign this year, Pepsi hopes to challenge the notion of even asking whether Pepsi is an acceptable substitute for Coke by reminding viewers that, for many cola drinkers, it is, in fact, their preferred choice. In a commercial released today, the above scenario plays out at a diner until actor Steve Carell appears from an adjacent booth to give his two cents. “Are puppies OK? Are shooting stars OK? Is the laughter of children OK?” he asks incredulously, before giving the waiter a pro-Pepsi pep talk.

“Every day, there are millions of people who enjoy Pepsi — people who love this brand — yet they continue to be asked ‘Is Pepsi OK?,’” Todd Kaplan, Vice President of Marketing at Pepsi said in a statement. “We felt that it was time to address this question head-on, by celebrating our fans, our valued restaurant partners, and our core consumers by unapologetically letting everyone know that Pepsi is way more than OK. With the help of a star-studded lineup, we’re taking this concept, and playfully flipping it on its head to show the world how refreshing, exhilarating, and downright awesome a delicious ice-cold Pepsi truly is.”

In line with “OK” concept, the ad also features rappers Cardi B and Lil Jon, both of whom have signature versions of the word “OK” in their catchphrase repertoire. Carell even attempts Cardi B’s trilling “okurrrr,” sounding more like Chewbacca than the Grammy-winning songstress. The celebrity-studded ad is a typical move for Pepsi, which has a long history of recruiting major pop stars for its advertisements, from Michael Jackson to Britney Spears to Beyonce.