‘Opportunity as a first-mover’: Mountain Dew is spending 40% of its marketing dollars targeting gamers

Mountain Dew is setting its sight on gamers.

Taking a page out of Redbull’s playbook, the PepsiCo brand is looking to be a first-mover in a niche industry, subbing in gamers and esports for extreme sports.

The company will spend 40% of its marketing dollars this year to reach gamers, said Nicole Portwood, vp of marketing.

In 2018, Mountain Dew spent $119.5 million on paid media alone, up from $89 million in 2017, according to data from Kantar Media. The brand said that its plan to spend 40% targeting gamers this year is a slight increase of its spend in the space last year but declined to give specifics.

The company plans to ramp up its sponsorships with esports leagues, including Team OpTic and Counter Logic Gaming as well as teams like Immortals, Team Dignitas and SK Gaming. It will also be spending money on Twitch on co-branded partnerships, as well as Facebook advertising to target gaming and esports fans. It’s also going to be making a new drink flavor focused on gamers, its second since the launch of Mountain Dew Amp Game Fuel last year.

What Mountain Dew has done in esports and gaming is “unique for the category, but not for the approach,” said Kate Wolff, svp of client services as RQ, who has built communities around gamers for brands like Google Play and YouTube, who pointed to Redbull’s approach to extreme lifestyle and sports as an example of how a brand can play in this space.

“By coming in hard fast and first to the category, they’ve achieved such a strong correlation with extreme sports that some may even say the sport is now an extension of the brand,” said Wolff. “Mountain Dew is looking to achieve the same thing by showing up first and going big across not just marketing but their products as well.”

A focus on gaming isn’t entirely new for Mountain Dew. In 2007, the brand recognized that gamers had already adopted the beverage brand as a part of gaming culture.

“The gaming space is one of the fastest-growing areas of the consumer world,” said Portwood. “We feel like we have a real opportunity there as a first mover.”

Per Nielsen’s Esports Playbook for Brands, one in five global esports fans are new to the space. In the last year, Nielsen found that non-gaming-related brands sponsoring esports has grown by 13% year over year and that 90% of U.S. esports fans on Twitch can name at least one non-gaming-related sponsor in esports.

For Mountain Dew, it helps that there has been a cultural shift around gaming, with growing consumer attention via platforms like Twitch garnering approximately 15 million daily visitors, per a pitch deck acquired by Digiday.

“As esports rise to reach similar sports-minded audiences, investments in esports marketing are a smart move for the brand,” Wolff said via email. “They’ve already started sponsoring esports teams including Dignitas, Splyce, SK Gaming and Immortals, among others, and have started the Mountain Dew League for amateur esports athletes in partnership with ESL. Just how Gatorade is known for fueling athletes physically, Mountain Dew can coexist with the brand and fuel gamers mentally.

Wolff also said that gamers are a natural fit for Mountain Dew, as the brand is known for its history with sports, specifically with its sponsorship of the X Games Dew Tour.

“The advertising portion of it is important from an awareness building standpoint, but we ultimately make sure that the fans and the professionals really know that we’re there for the long haul,” said Portwood.

Since its launch of Mountain Dew Amp Game Fuel this past winter, the brand has reached 47% of consumer awareness around the product with “repeat rates on it at about 40%,” said Portwood, adding that the social sentiment has been 96% positive.

“The key to all of this for us is to keep that focus on the end consumer,” said Portwood. “As long as we keep that first in our mind when it comes to consideration of partnerships, investment, innovation then we will be in good shape for the future.”

This story previously said the brand was pursuing opportunities with Cheddar based on information received by Digiday. This is not the case and the story has been edited to reflect this.