The Eye of the Tiger

Emma Quigley continues her winning streak with Super Bowl LII

As the Head of Music and Entertainment for PepsiCo, Emma Quigley’s responsibilities include everything from finding emerging talent to launching new brands – and oh yeah – also helping put on a little thing called the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Justin Timberlake performs during the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Feb. 4, 2018.

 It takes a village…

“The first thing I want to say is that it truly takes a village to put that show on.”  As it should. After all, the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show is regularly the most-viewed live musical performance worldwide, this year seen by over 106 million people in the U.S. alone. Quite a nice showcase for the right artist. But for PepsiCo’s Emma Quigley, selecting the right artist is only part of the battle. “The key to making that show successful is having the entire team working together cohesively… Making sure each element is done to the best of our ability so we can create, one, the best show and two, also, a really strong narrative around it.”


Obviously, the Super Bowl itself is a platform where brands generally launch their biggest and best commercials of the year – so there’s a lot of competition around which brands win ‘share of voice’. “In the last 2 years Pepsi has been the brand with the #1 share voice around not just the Halftime Show but around the Super Bowl itself. The #1 share voice is measured through social – basically any tweetings, hashtags, sharing…”

It’s the sort of insider idea that makes you think maybe Justin Timberlake’s show-ending Super Bowl selfie wasn’t simply an impromptu interaction.

Justin Timberlake is the best guy ever

A post shared by Ryan Mckenna (@ryantheselfiekid) on

It’s all about the fans…

But of course, building that fanbase buzz and creating the social narrative starts with picking the right artist. For Quigley and her team it’s a process that starts almost as soon as the previous year’s event is over, and includes numerous rounds of ideation and curation internally before being sent to the NFL for further collaboration. “That process is probably a 4 to 5 month process until we’ve fully identified who the artist is going to be, what the tone of the show is going to be, and reach out [to confirm] the artist is available.”

With so much on the line, Quigley says that picking the right performer is not a choice to be made lightly. “They REALLY have to be an amazing live performer and put on an incredible live show. With the caliber of talent that performs on the Halftime Show, you know that they may be incredible singers, but they also have to be outstanding PERFORMERS. The artists and their teams put together an insane show… And they generally do have to be in the superstar category…. It’s imperative they have a catalogue of instantly recognizable songs so the viewer has an instant connection when they take the stage.”

And of course for Emma and the Pepsi brand team, Mr. Timberlake fits that profile quite nicely, calling him “one of the greatest entertainers alive,” and noting that they had been discussing him as a headliner for a couple of years but had to wait for the timing to be right.

Once the artist and their creative and production teams have figured out what they want to do from a performance standpoint, “we start working closely with the artist’s team – our second wave – as to what we as a brand want to do – and then figuring out how we can collaborate to ensure we make it a really special event.”

Always be different. You don’t want to be the same as everybody else.

Presumably this is where Quigley begins to see the fruits of their detailed decision-making process. “Every artist is different. Some fully lean in, some are a little bit more restrictive…. Although, we’ve had very little resistance from the artist whenever we’re doing anything that is focused on the fans. Delivering these great, enriching experiences for the fan is our focus and we rarely get push back from the artists on that.”

Keep it fresh, keep it unique…

As far as where Quigley’s Super Bowl duties rank on her list of current work obligations as the Head of Music and Entertainment for one of the world’s biggest brands, she’s fairly diplomatic with her answer. “There’s a lot of players involved and we’re always looking to make it bigger and better each year, [but] it’s a well-oiled machine at this point so I would say there’s more challenges outside of that than inside of it. The challenge we constantly have as a brand – how do we do something that is truly fresh and unique but is still tied to the brand objectives for that year?”

She cites PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew Ice commercial – a new brand that launched at this past Super Bowl – as an example. The hilarious ad features Morgan Freeman engaged in a rap battle with Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage. “We were heavily involved in that process. Ultimately, we landed on Missy Elliot [as the artist for Mr. Freeman to lip sync to].  We walked through the pros and cons – there were a lot of other artists under consideration for that spot, but we had to be confident the music would resonate with the Super Bowl audience… those are the things that are more challenging than anything else.”


As one can imagine, when there are so many eyeballs and so much money on the line, there are also quite a few opinions being thrown around as well.

“Last year at Super Bowl LI we launched a completely new brand, LifeWTR… [which] is a brand that is all about creativity – their focus is not music at all. Their focus is on visual arts with ties to fashion. It was a real challenge on who we should partner with and what the look and sound should be. To me John Legend was the perfect choice. I had a very different point of view on what it should be but we fought hard for John and [ultimately]… that was hugely successful for us. He rewrote his beautiful love song ‘Love Me Now’ and turned it into a song about art and inspiration – and it brought the creative to life perfectly. LifeWTR also became the most successful new brand launch in PepsiCo history.”


So, ultimately, what is the secret to a successful campaign?

“I hate the word authentic because it’s so over-used,” she says with clear disdain in her voice. “But the brand identity and the message – supporting the visual arts – that’s something that John felt very strongly about so he was able to talk about it with true passion [and] that makes a huge difference in the success of a campaign. The fans of the artist can always tell when something is real and when something has just been a transaction.”


img Five Questions with Emma Quigley

Head of Music & Entertainment, PepsiCo.

  1. What is an important fact about yourself that isn’t on the internet?

“I’m an incredibly private person.”

  1. What is the most valuable piece of advice your mother ever taught you?

“Always be different. You don’t want to be the same as everybody else. And don’t allow anyone to force you to be something that you’re not. 

  1. What is the BEST thing about being Emma?

Every day is different, I get to work on incredibly cool stuff and meet really great people, I’m constantly being inspired, so never really get bored. I think that’s a real privilege in today’s world.

  1. What is the WORST thing about being Emma?

“I’m an absolute perfectionist, so anything that’s less than perfection drives me crazy and sometimes I need to just let it go. Honestly, I drive myself crazy. 

  1. What fictional character do you most closely align yourself with?

My namesake – Mrs. Peel from the Avengers – the 60’s British TV Show. They called her Emma Peel because they wanted someone with Man Appeal – M. Appeal – (M-A-PEEL), meaning she had to be kickass. She was pretty amazing and that’s who I’m named after. Look her up.

Emma Quigley is the Head of Music and Entertainment for Pepsi. She led a Master Course on the Power of Music and Brands at WORLDZ 2017 in Hollywood, California.