No Walkers, No Game: beautifully blending sausage & sizzle

Sports sponsorship is expensive. To get the best return on your investment, you need to go beyond what we call “logo slapping”: simply adding your logo to a film featuring footage of the sport in question. Instead, we recommend creating a brand activation platform that uses the sponsorship. Here, the brand and product are fully integrated, as they were with Be The Coach campaign we worked on with the Carling Black Label team.

The Walkers brand has recently used this approach to great effect, with an ad called No Walkers, No Game. The ad celebrates the brand’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League and stars David Beckham and Thierry Henry. The pair have run out of Walkers as they sit down to watch a big game at home. “We can’t watch the game without Walkers,” complains Beckham. So, Thierry sets out on a door-to-door search for a bag. The lucky household who can supply the Walkers will get to watch the came with the dynamic duo! Andrew Tindall from System 1 recently shared some fascinating insights on the campaign (1). He revealed that the ad is the second most effective one for Walkers ever. In this post, we look at some of the drivers of this strong performance.

1. Link to a category entry point

The film is rooted in the product category. More specifically, it focuses on a “category entry point” linked to a key occasion for salty snacks: watching soccer. “Building associations with this moment will make the brand easy to think of during this occasion,” as Andrew notes (1). This sounds obvious. But often teams fall into the trap of “laddering up” to a high emotional level when working on sponsorship, losing touch with the category.

2. Product “sausage”

What a joy to see brand communication where the product plays a starring and not supporting role. The campaign dramatises the idea that Walkers crisps are an essential part of a game watching experience. Without labouring the point, the suggestion is that the crisps are so tasty that without them there is literally no game. The brand and the distinctive red packaging are featured throughout, but always in an active role, rather than slapping on a logo. Beckham complains that they are out of Walkers, at the start and again at the end, showing an empty bag, for example. This embedding of the brand and product is reflected in a whopping 94% of viewers rapidly knowing what brand the ad was for.

The combination of these first two points, link to category and making the product the hero, drive an exceptionally high “spike” rating of 1.58 (2). This is a measure of short-term sales potential, derived from strength of branding, in addition to emotional response we come onto next.

3. Emotion sizzle

The Walkers film expertly adds blends emotional “sizzle” with the product story through the entertaining storyline. This features Thierry on the hunt for Walkers, whilst Beckham is back at home cleaning in preparation for the guests (a playful take on his obsession with cleaning revealed in the Netflix series on the Beckhams). Featuring celebs rather than just doing a generic film about soccer is also a smart move, suggests Andrew (1). He quotes research he worked on, “The Sports Dividend” (3), which showed how including sporting celebs in sports partnership marketing boosts positive emotions and effectiveness.

The strong emotional response to the ad is reflected in a 5* creative effectiveness rating. This means the film has strong potential to drive long-term market share growth, in addition to the short term spike mentioned eariler.

4. Grow the core

Another refreshing thing about the Walkers campaign is how it stars the core product, rather than a new flavour or product extension. More specifically, it features “the anchor product” in the core range, often called something like “Classic” or “Original”. In this example, the product is Walkers Ready Salted in the iconic red pack. The advantage of dramatising “the core of the core” in this way is focusing on the essence of Walkers-ness, which benefits every product in the range.

5. Fresh consistency

With the No Walkers. No Game campaign, Walkers is also applying one of the key principles we use when helping team work on growing the core: fresh consistency. The consistency comes from building on the 30 year collaboration with England soccer star Gary Lineker. From the start, the campaign was rooted in the idea of Walkers being irresistible, the same product story being dramatised in 2024.

6. Drive through to promotional activity

No Walkers. No Game has also been driven through the line to include a promotional element. With a play on the duration of a soccer match, the promotion offers the chance to Win £500 Every 90 Minutes. This is a more conventional sales promotion, but plays an important role in helping Walkers in the quest to secure secondary displays to drive in-store visibility and incremental volume.

7. Creating a global brand asset

The ultimate ambition when working on brand activation platforms is to create a global campaign that is scaleable (can get bigger and better over time) and replicable (can be rolled out to multiple markets). Digging into the Walkers campaign, I discovered that the No Walkers, No Game campaign Andrew posted on is part of just such a campaign for the Lay’s brand. Walkers is the Pepsico UK’s version of Lay’s, with the same visual identity but a local name.

No Lay’s, No Game started in 2023, with a campaign featuring Lionel Messi (4). The 2024 campaign launch was an ambitious brand stunt filmed in front of 75,000 football fans during a UEFA game at the San Siro stadium in Italy. In a similar set-up the ad we’ve covered in this post, the film starts with Beckham complaining that Thierry has eaten all the Lay’s. The solution in this case if for Thierry to make his way round the stadium in search of a pair of fans who have Lay’s in hand. The different fans he visits are featured on the big screen in the stadium, mimicking the “kiss cam” used on match days to capture couples embracing. The two lucky fans with the Lay’s got to watch the match with the duo.

The Walker team have smartly adapted the Lays campaign in two ways. First, a shorter version of the stadium film was created (below), swapping the anchor version yellow pack of Lay’s for the red pack of Walker’s. Note also how the international term of “chips” is changed to the UK term of “crips”. Second, the UK “door to door” ad discussed in this post was created, with the same core idea but a fresh execution.

In conclusion, No Walkers, No Game is a beautiful example of how to blend product sausage and emotional sizzle to build the brand and build the business, with the core product integrated into a heroic role.


  1. System 1 Linked In Post
  2. System 1 full report
  3. Sports Dividend report
  4. 2023 campaign