At the time, Frito–Lay, which is owned by PepsiCo, was a company looking to grow. PepsiCo’s premier product, Pepsi, was unable to get involved with the NFL due to the league’s relationship with competitor Coca-Cola. However, the NFL did not have an official snack sponsor, leaving the potential for Frito-Lay to approach the league with an idea to reimagine the halftime show. MacKenzie and his colleagues Roger Enrico, CEO of Frito-Lay, Jerry Noonan, CMO of Frito-Lay, and Jay Coleman, an entertainment marketer, proposed a performance that would entice viewers to remain engaged as they restocked their beer and grabbed more wings. Michael Jackson was Pepsi’s most high-profile surrogate, and Coleman reached out to his team to gauge their interest in a Frito-Lay sponsored appearance. Jackson’s team was on board….
…but the NFL was not. They balked at the idea, taken aback by the implication that a halftime model that had worked for 20+ years needed changing. That didn’t deter MacKenzie, Enrico, Noonan and Coleman. They were determined to find a home for their idea, which they hoped to use as a platform to launch a new bite-sized Dorito product.
The group began shopping around their proposal to different television networks, offering a counterprogramming block that could draw viewers away from the Big Game. The problem was that the Big 3 networks routinely transferred ownership of the event, and each feared alienating the NFL.
At this point, FOX was a brash young network, eager to break into the upper echelon of broadcast media. They had no skin in the game, and eagerly saw the opportunity in shaking up the status quo. At the time, their show “In Living Color,” was rising in the ratings with emerging talent like The Wayans Brothers and Jim Carrey (and later Jennifer Lopez and Jamie Foxx). FOX planned a counterprogramming block, aired during halftime, that featured a live telecast of “In Living Color,” sponsored by Frito-Lay.
Thus, “Dorito’s Zap Time” was born.