Dr Pepper Puts Gamer Star's Face On Bottles

Dr. Pepper bottleIn a consumer promotion that is being billed as one of the largest not only in video gaming but professional sports, Dr Pepper will kick off its second year as a sponsor of the Major League Gamer (MLG) Web sites by featuring an MLG gaming star player on more than 175 million 20-ounce bottles of the regular and Diet Dr Pepper.


Dr Pepper is sponsoring the No. 1-ranked team participating in MLG, "Str8 Rippin," and the bottles, which will debut in January, will feature an image of team superstar Tom "Tsquared" Taylor. This will mark the first time that Dr Pepper has featured any sports-league partner or sponsored professional star on its label for national distribution.

Each bottle's cap will include a code that when entered in Dr Pepper's Web site will give users chances to win prizes such as Xbox consoles, television monitors, custom headphones and t-shirts--and can also earn the user online tournament points on the game site,



The points earned, as Dr Pepper is emphasizing, make every promotion bottle "a winner" for the purchaser.

Dr Pepper is also creating a promotional site that will offer hours of content about its sponsored team and team members, game-playing strategy tips and highlights of the team's 2008 season. In-store promotions will be timed to coincide with the bottles' appearance on shelves.

If your brand's target audience is not young males (or you aren't one yourself), you may be unfamiliar with MLG. The MLG's family of Web sites, launched in 2002, is not gaming sites themselves; rather, their technology enables tracking and ranking of the performance of those who compete on video-gaming sites. Gamers using 40 different game titles, on any platform (PC's, as well as Xbox, Nintendo and other consoles) compete and report their results, which are checked and then reported/ranked by MLG.

Is video gaming a professional sport? You bet, according to MLG. MLG has a player's association, currently including about 128 of the top-ranked players, who compete during six, live three-day weekend MLG Pro Circuit competitions each year during the official video gaming season (April through November), explains Amy Janzen, SVP marketing communications. These star players get travel stipends, and some are on contract to the tune of $250,000 over three years.

"Many of these star players are in college or high school, so they are quite pleased by the ability to earn this kind of money," understates Janzen.

What's the draw for a marketer like Dr Pepper, or other current sponsors such as Old Spice, Stride gum, Ball Park Franks, Panasonic and Hewlett-Packard? Over 95% of MLG's approximately 40 million site users are young males, with a particularly high concentration of those ages 16 to 24 (average age, 19), according to MLG co-founder and chairman Mike Sepso. "Actually, it's 99% male, but that sounds incredible, so I say 'over 95%,'" he adds.

As marketers are well aware, young men are notoriously difficult to reach these days because they are light consumers of traditional media. "Most of their media consumption time is spent on the Web and on video games in particular," says Sepso, noting that MLG has plenty of research documenting this--along with user research showing that MLG users' passion for video games is akin to that of avid followers of NASCAR, the NFL and other major-league sports.

"Young, 18-24 males are avid Dr Pepper drinkers," wrote Dr Pepper brand manager Terry Hockens in an email response to Marketing Daily queries. "With over 10 million consumers going to the [MLG] gaming Web sites each month, the partnership provides us with a unique, highly targeted way to reach this particular audience."

This year, Dr Pepper's MLG sponsorship included the Dr Pepper Collegiate Challenge, a program that will award $10,000 for tuition to the nation's top collegiate video gamer. The winner will be announced in January.

But wait. Don't women--or at least young women--play video games? Yes, they do, says Sepso--but few play the "highly competitive," fiercely interactive video games tracked and ranked by MLG (such as "World of Warcraft," "Gears of War," "Call of Duty 4," "Vegas 2," "Halo 3," and "Rainbow Six").

MLG's research shows that players of these games have "psychographic traits similar to those of people who compete in any type of traditional sport," Seso says. "They're highly social, tend to be trend leaders rather than followers, and compete intensely in every aspect of their lives."

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