On Tuesday, Pepsi MAX debuted a new commercial featuring NFL Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and the upcoming Madden NFL 25 game (video). The lighthearted ad features Sanders in a barber shop as he is about to answer a question that has long held so many fans mystified about the Lions legend, but before he is able to do so, hilarity ensues.
When fans buy Pepsi MAX, they have a chance to win a variety of prizes including a chance to go to Madden Bowl XX. Those who are deeply invested in Madden's Ultimate Team Mode will probably be very interested because they can but also score codes that gets them player packs that could potentially unlock players such as Sanders for use in the game.
As part of Pepsi MAX's promotion of their new "Disappearing Sanders" commercial, Sanders spoke with Examiner about his role in the ad and other topics such as his enduring legacy among football fans which was never more evident than when he was named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 25 and also what he thinks about the Lions of today.
Examiner: Talk to us about your new commercial for Pepsi MAX and how it ties in to Madden NFL 25.
Sanders: So when you purchase Pepsi MAX, you'll potentially receive a code that will give you access to one of the legends in the game like myself and other legends. So in the commercial, I'm in a barber shop receiving a shave and I'm about to explain to the guys in the shop why I retired and somehow I disappear because some kid that's playing the game unlocks me and I show up in his living room.
Examiner: Can you explain the feeling behind being chosen by the fans to be the cover athlete of Madden? Even though you've been retired for nearly 15 years, it says a lot that fans still think that highly of you to put you on the cover of the game.
Sanders: Well, for me, it's a terrific honor, but just to be a part of the competition and to be involved with the other guys was pretty special. And you look at all of the players in the old school bracket and the guys in the new school bracket and to be among them was a surprise. So I'm very appreciative of the fans, and hey look, anytime you're on the cover of Madden, it means you're doing something right and on the same end, when you're being featured in a Pepsi MAX commercial, you're doing something right. And being on the cover of Madden introduces you to so many new fans that never saw you play. It's been a thrill for me and I just never saw it coming.
Examiner: What is it about your game that translates to today's fan?
Sanders: Well, I think my game translates well because I think the designers have been very generous with how they rated me in the game, so a lot of the fans of Madden can appreciate that. And people can still relate to me when they see those highlights and that it wasn't that long ago when I played that fans think that I'm that out of touch.
Examiner: Another thing that was so admirable was the class you exuded while in the game. When you scored a touchdown, you never really pounded your chest or did anything crazy. You just gave the ball back and acted like you've been there before. How do you feel about today's players and the NFL's crackdown on celebrations?
Sanders: I really do think it's one of things that you could almost see coming. I think there's a fine line in how you should conduct yourself on the field and that you should be able to celebrate big plays, but that you should never detract from the game. You should have the perspective that this is a team game and so when you put too much attention on yourself that takes away from the game and I'm not surprised that the NFL would do something about it. We all celebrate our own way and for me, it was about doing what was natural and my approach to the game was more serious.
Examiner: You're a hall of fame player with the Detroit Lions. How much of a relationship do you keep with the team?
Sanders: Yes, I keep in touch with the team. I don't have a title with the team or anything like that, but I do go to a game or two and I still live in Michigan and I'm still a fan.
Examiner: What are your thoughts on the Lions coming into this season? They have one of the best wide receivers in the game today with Calvin Johnson (and last year's cover athlete) along with Matthew Stafford.
Sanders: I feel pretty good. We know that we should be able to put up some points. One of their top concerns is being able to shut down the opponent's passing game. Can we get enough pressure on the quarterback and can we adequately defend their receivers? When you get to teams like the Green Bays who have a top-rated passing game, those are the concerns and also creating that balance on offense. Last year, we had a record-breaking receiver and threw for a lot of yards but we were nowhere near the playoffs. We just want to be able to create that balance. Calvin and Matthew had great years, but we want to able to achieve that team success.