Country-crooner Blake Shelton’s name elicits dreams of ole fashioned Americana: driving a dirt-covered truck along bumpy back roads, sitting on a back porch, sipping Tennessee whiskey—or at least singing "Jack Daniels," as Shelton's Southern superstar wife Miranda Lambert does on country radio. But starting Tuesday, Shelton’s drink will have a bit of a twist. He’s drinking his Jack with Pepsi.
The soft-beverage brand is sponsoring Shelton’s summer tour, providing diehard fans with VIP access to the singer. Pepsi is also behind Shelton's first-ever CMT Music Awards performance on June 4. It paid for a remote stage, set up outside of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, where the Oklahoma-born twanger will perform. (Neither Shelton nor Pepsi would disclose the financial terms of the arrangement.)
This isn’t Shelton’s first rodeo with Pepsi. In 2013, he performed on the Pepsi Music Bus at CMA Fest, a multi-day music festival featuring country’s biggest names. Shelton also helped Pepsi hype up the 2014 Super Bowl with a performance at parent company PepsiCo’s (pep) PepCity space in Manhattan’s Bryant Park.
Shelton was hoping the smaller gigs would lead to something more. “In the negotiations, I was just like, ‘Please, will ya’ll work with me?’” he tells Fortune in an exclusive interview prior to the deal's announcement. “[Pepsi] has such a history with working with some of the biggest, most successful, greatest artists of all genres of music. It feels like a great accomplishment for me personally.” Some big-name musicians who have repped Pepsi in the past include Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj.
Shelton says he’s most excited about the opportunities Pepsi provides for fans. For the singer's June 4 CMT performance, Pepsi asked Shelton fans to submit their best lyrics via social media--the winner is being flown out to Nashville to see him perform at the CMT Music Awards, complete with red-carpet treatment. Twenty-four other fans were surprised with similar VIP access to Shelton's concert. “I’m blown away by some of the ideas [Pepsi’s] already had for some of my tour this year,” the singer says. “I just think it’s really cool. There’s nobody else out there that does anything like that.”
Pepsi’s not the only brand Shelton’s behind. In May, he helped Pizza Hut, owned by Yum! Brands (yum), launch its new BBQ pizza with a slew of commercials. “It’s all about not taking yourself too seriously,” Shelton explains. For him, that's been relatively easy. “I was like, “Oh crap, that’s what I do anyways.” He also feels a personal connection to the restaurant, too. Growing up in Ada, Oklahoma, he regularly visited Pizza Hut for birthday parties, on weekends, and during summer nights.
Shelton credits his role as a coach on NBC’s reality singing competition The Voice with helping him lock down these big-brand deals. “It’s just taken a while for the stars to align,” he tells Fortune. Shelton said Pizza Hut wanted a familiar face to help them launch their BBQ pizzas and he’s “in people’s homes twice a week for a good part of the year.” As for Pepsi, The Voice helped raise the performer's profile to a point where the Fortune 500 company would notice him. “It took a television show to elevate my career musically, I think, to that level,” he says.
It’s likely other brands will soon want a piece of country’s most relatable star. What does Shelton think Blake Shelton—the brand—can offer them? “Just stupid fun,” he says. “That’s the only way I know how to put it.”