Mountain Dew is deciding to take the plunge into partnering with a highly successful esports team in Immortals, which includes Mountain Dew becoming the team's "Official Beverage" as part of the deal. Additionally, the two brands will be collaborating on multiple content initiatives, including a pilot for an unscripted esports series.

Much like HP, Mountain Dew seems to recognize the importance of taking a different approach when it comes to esports, in order to best create meaningful engagements with the target audience. As such, the deal primarily focuses on content and activation as opposed to mere exposure.

I recently spoke with PepsiCo VP of Marketing, Global Flavors Manos Spanos (for the Mountain Dew brand) and Immortals President and COO Ari Segal to learn more about the unique deal and why this made sense for the brands.

What is the company's current strategy when it comes to esports and why does this new partnership fit well within?

Spanos: Esports an integral part of the Mountain Dew overall gaming strategy. We feel that we have a unique opportunity to become an endemic brand in gaming by truly approaching it in a very holistic, authentic way anchored around 3 main pillars:

Our exciting partnership with the Immortals team touches all of the above pillars: from working together to accelerate the delivery of great content and challenging conventions around competitions to leveraging their experience and expertise in gaming to inform our product creation process.

How much of your consumer base do you believe to be made up of millennials and is that a major focus for brand marketing moving forward?

Spanos: Millennials and Gen Z are core audiences for Mountain Dew. As such, we spend a considerable amount of effort and time in understanding them and how we can best deliver branded content and experiences that will resonate with them.

The world of gaming and esports is definitely a space that is only growing and getting more exciting by the day. Millennials, in particular, are engaged in a very sizeable and passionate way, so we are thrilled to be partnering with a leader like the Immortals team.

What brands are sponsors of Immortals and why did you see that Mountain Dew was a good fit?

Segal: To date, Immortals partners were almost exclusively endemic brands, including OMEN by HP, LF Gaming, ESTARZ, and Bloody Gaming.  As an organization that's growing and maturing, we saw 2018 as the year in which we would deepen and expand our reach with and among endemic sponsors and also begin entering into deep, broad, and, in some cases, multi-year partnerships with non-endemic brands. 

One key inflection point for us was our landmark partnership with Ash v. Evil Dead, our current Overwatch League kit sponsor for our Los Angeles Valiant brand. Building on the Ash deal, we targeted Mountain Dew in part because, in Mountain Dew, we saw an ideal partner that would allow us to accelerate this transition. 

While soft drinks and carbonated beverages are, at least to some degree, non-endemic categories, Mountain Dew has established a long, sustained track record of investing in esports and, through both esports and non esports investments and partnerships, creating and enabling fun, different, and participatory events and activities for fans and customers.  We share Mountain Dew's passion for live events and desire to create compelling live programming and other premium content that adds value to the fan experience.

Why did you decide to give away the whole beverage category to Mountain Dew as opposed to a smaller section of the whole?

Segal: I wouldn't say we "gave away" the category. Instead, as we thought about this year and the strategic approach we wanted to take in building our partnerships business, we intentionally sought out brands and individuals that shared our vision and values. 

We connected immediately with Manos Spanos and the Mountain Dew team because we all saw an opportunity to structure a different, more entrepreneurial partnership built around content and collaboration rather than purely passive branding. In order to go down this less traditional and yet more exciting path, we simply decided to join hands and dive in together.