PepsiCo's Mountain Dew Backs Film
Wall Street Journal, 9/12/05
Later this month, movie theaters will start
showing a trailer for an upcoming documentary on
snowboarding, "First Descent," due to open in
theaters nationwide on Dec. 2. What won't be
readily apparent is that the film is, in part, a
marketing push by PepsiCo soft drink Mountain Dew.
"First Descent" was financed by a newly formed
film unit at Mountain Dew, MD Films, to create
buzz for the highly caffeinated drink -- subtly.
To ensure people don't perceive the film as a long
commercial, Mountain Dew's name isn't overtly tied
to the film. But the brand will make occasional
The film, being distributed by Universal Pictures,
traces the history of snowboarding, told through
the stories of five well-known snowboarders. Two
of the athletes featured in the film are sponsored
by Mountain Dew and wear the drink's logos on
their helmets and snowboards. Mountain Dew is one
of a number of sponsors of snowboarding events
featured in the film, so the drink's signs will
appear in those scenes. And moviegoers shouldn't
be surprised if they see people drinking Mountain
Dew in certain scenes: the drink was available for
cast members to drink during shooting.
Mountain Dew's backing of the film is one more
example of how marketers, increasingly questioning
the effectiveness of traditional TV advertising,
are coming up with marketing alternatives.
Mountain Dew has long sponsored action sports
events and used sports in its TV commercials. But
now it's hoping a subtle association with a
sports-related movie will give its brand more
credibility with men who enjoy sports such as
snowboarding, biking and surfing.
Such men, a key part of the drink's target market
of men ages 18 to 24, are typically hard to reach
through TV ads because they watch less TV than
other segments of the population.
"Ultimately, we think this will do more over time
to build our brand than anything overt we can do
for this hard-to-reach audience," says John
Galloway, vice president sports and media for
Pepsi Cola North America. He wouldn't disclose how
much Pepsi had invested in the film. Mountain Dew
is now considering other film projects in sports
To be sure, consumer-products companies have
financed television shows for years. Hallmark
Cards helped build its brand name through Hallmark
Hall of Fame movies on television. In this case,
however, Mountain Dew is deliberately taking a low
profile in its involvement with the film, to avoid
turning off consumers who dislike hard-sell
While the brand's appearance in certain scenes
means it will likely register in moviegoers'
minds, few are likely to realize that Mountain Dew
made the film. Not even ads for the film, also
paid for by Mountain Dew, mention the drink.
Still, Mountain Dew hasn't kept its involvement a
complete secret: it screened the film for the
nation's top skiers and snowboarders, among
others, at ESPN's Winter X Games in January.
Marketing consultants say Mountain Dew is walking
a tightrope. "It is not as simple as running an ad
campaign. They have to understand that fine line
between making sure it's not overcommercialized,
and at the same time they don't want to be just
anonymous in this whole investment," says John V.
Allen of Highbridge Consulting in Connecticut.
Still, he says, a venture such as this, if done
right, is a "solid way" to build a brand. "It's a
longer, slower burn, but a much more effective
one," he says.