July 19, 2021  

Creating sustainable football fields in communities that need them most

PepsiCo associate Luca Pogliaghi has worked with international stars, but Lay’s RePlay, his latest project, acts on a local level.

The pure joy of a game-winning goal. The beauty of a perfectly timed pass. The suspense before a penalty kick. Luca Pogliaghi loves everything about football.

“Even before getting this job, football was one of my biggest passions,” the Senior Manager of Global Sports Marketing, a native of Milan, Italy, explains. “When this position became available, I immediately thought, this is my chance.”

Luca started at PepsiCo as an assistant brand manager 14 years ago. He now helps manage the company’s multi-year UEFA partnership — which is the company’s largest global platform — and has brought his passion for making the sport more accessible to a wide range of purpose-driven endeavors, including building new pitches in Jordan’s refugee camps. “There is always something new to do” at PepsiCo, he explains. “It’s what keeps me motivated and challenged.”

Even before getting this job, football was one of my biggest passions.

One of his most recent challenges: overseeing the UEFA Champions League Final’s Opening Ceremony presented by Pepsi. Luca wrangled a futuristic beamed-in performance with multi-platinum electronic music producer and DJ Marshmello in what would have been a live extravaganza in pre-COVID times. “My mom texted me during the ceremony asking if I did this,” Luca says, laughing. “I told her yes, I had a part in it.”

Now, with Lay’s RePlay, Luca is able to share his love of the game with even more communities in need around the world. He’s the architect behind the global initiative, which creates sustainable artificial turf fields (aka pitches) by upcycling empty chip packs. The program, a partnership with UEFA Foundation for children and NGO streetfootballworld, launched last month in South Africa, with pitches planned in the U.K, Russia, Turkey and Brazil to follow. The initiative also creates social-impact programming, like job training and teamwork building, for people in each community.

And Luca has his eyes set on expanding Lay’s RePlay even further. “We are starting with just five locations, but this is a project that is meant to evolve throughout the years and continue to deliver joy in the years to come.”

The Lay’s RePlay pitch in Tembisa, South Africa

The Lay’s RePlay pitch in Tembisa, South Africa.

To bring Lay’s RePlay to life, Luca had to tap into his skills as an expert negotiator. He worked with local leaders, partners and municipalities in each city to map out the pitch locations, equipment needs, programming and chip bag collection process. His North Star across dozens of conversations: What would benefit each community the most? "We’re bringing all these people together with the goal to do as much good as we can and put Lay’s packs to good use,” he says.

We’re bringing all these people together with the goal to do as much good as we can for the communities and put Lay’s packs to good use.

One secret to Luca’s success has been building a team where everyone feels free to voice their opinions fearlessly. “At PepsiCo, you can make a difference as an individual and in your team and with your opinions,” he explains. “All our opinions are necessary to bring this partnership to the next level. I think it’s ok, productive even, to disagree when it comes to work.”

Ultimately, Luca says, all the discussions, collaborations and debates are worth it once a pitch opens. He remembers inviting the community to test-drive the newly built Lay’s RePlay pitch in Tembisa, South Africa. “You could see that it’s not just the beautiful infrastructure — it’s people thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I have this now to play with every day.’” he says. “Happy faces are the best reward.”