Back when I reviewed Amp Energy Drink in 2005, it was a pretty niche product (first introduced in 2001). It probably wouldn't have had any sort of visibility without the tie-in to sibling Mountain Dew, both owned by PepsiCo.
My how times have changed. Amp is about to get some big time visibility thanks to NASCAR. Note this official press release from Pepsi:
Mountain Dew Amp Energy & The National Guard To Sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolets in 2008
DALLAS – (September 19, 2007) – Mountain Dew Amp Energy and the Army National Guard will sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the popular stock-car driver joins Hendrick Motorsports for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign, it was announced Wednesday at the Dallas Convention Center.
Earnhardt, who helped design his two primary paint schemes and red car-number graphic, will drive the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolets next season. The cars will see racing action for the first time in February during season-opening Speedweeks at Daytona ( Fla. ) International Speedway.
“To be able to announce our new sponsorship partners, car number and paint schemes for 2008 is a big relief for me, and I know it is for my fans as well,” said Earnhardt, 32, winner of 17 Cup-level races and two NASCAR Busch Series championships. “This year has been full of major decisions and changes, and I'm really happy with the outcome.
“We are aligned with powerful brands, Mountain Dew Amp Energy and the National Guard, each with traits that everybody can identify with. And we are racing with a number that's very relevant to me, the No. 88. It's hard not to already be excited for the 2008 season.”
Now with a new team, complete with a new number, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is also racing with a new sponsor… or in this case, a collection of sponsors… namely, Amp and the National Guard.
Of interest in this move is that Pepsi was obviously stepping up to be the sponsor on this car, though not with an obvious brand. They recently let their "official drink sponsor" status with NASCAR lapse, so obviously they thought there advertising dollars would get more bang with a solo car sponsorship.
As Darren Rovell at CNBC noted, the fact that Pepsi placed a 2nd tier brand on the car allows them to best measure whether or not their investment was worth it. If they had put the Mountain Dew brand there, which is already the #4 beverage in the country, how could you really measure success with a car sponsorship.
However, in the growing energy drink category, Pepsi has some ground to makeup. According to industry publication BevNet Energy Drink Buyer's Guide 2007, Amp is in 5th place when it comes to sales, behind established brands Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Full Throttle (owned by Coke) and SoBe No Fear.
Amp is a unique brand because it both stands alone, but also rides the coattails of Mountain Dew. When I reviewed the drink, I noted that it did have some Dew overtones, so that makes sense.
And when you look at the paint scheme for Dale Jr.'s car, Pepsi isn't going to let you forget that it's tied to Dew either. While the Dew brand is not seen on the main hood decal, it can be found on the sides. The two brands go hand in hand. Pepsi also makes a big deal about Mountain Dew's racing heritage with NASCAR in their press release, even trying to note that it's kinda like an energy drink:
Pepsi-Cola North America, the maker of Mountain Dew Amp Energy, has been involved in racing since NASCAR introduced its premier division, now known as the NEXTEL Cup Series, in 1949. Mountain Dew was the lead sponsor on Darrell Waltrip's championship-winning Cup entries in 1981 and 1982.
… “Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most popular athletes in the world and his talent is as big as his following,” said Dawn Hudson, president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America. “Mountain Dew's racing heritage runs deep and in many ways it is the original energy drink. Amp is the next evolution of Dew and now it's entering a new exciting chapter with Dale.
From a marketing perspective, it would appear that Pepsi sees real growth potential in the Amp brand… more so that the flop that is Mountain Dew MDX. In fact, if you look at the sales number from 2006, Amp was the 3rd fastest growing brand, behind Red Bull and SoBe Adrenaline Rush, so there is obvious potential there. However, it's a long climb, as Red Bull commands about 43% of the market, whereas Amp just pulls close to 4%.
I think you'll start to see distribution for the Amp brand increase quite a bit with the increased visibility… which PepsiCo obviously hopes will translate into sales. Though unlike Dale Jr.'s previous sponsor (Budweiser), the Amp brand will only get prominent location half the time, as it's sharing sponsorship with the National Guard. You'll note from the models that when the National Guard has the primary sponsor scheme, both Amp and Mountain Dew get promotion on the tail end of the car only.
It should be interesting to watch the sales numbers a year from now to see if this little marketing move pays off for Pepsi!