PepsiCo Positions Amp as Everyman’s Drink

NEW YORK PepsiCo wants Mountain Dew Amp Energy to be the energy drink of the masses.

The beverage and snack giant has labeled Amp one of its “mega-brands” and plans to spend accordingly. A massive ad campaign starring Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (likely debuting during the Super Bowl), three new flavors, a high-profile summer promotion and a slew of packaging variations will aim to spur sales of the No. 5 energy drink.

The high-margin $5 billion energy category was up 35 percent for the first nine months of last year, per Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y. It shows little sign of slowing.

Pepsi is making a big bet that Amp, which saw sales double last year, will become the choice of goal-oriented males 18-34. “Amp is about bringing your ‘A’ game whether it is going 200 miles per hour on the race track or going to your meeting,” said Maurice Herrera, Amp’s marketing director. “Energy drinks were about getting jacked up for the night. Now it’s about busy people who want a boost of energy.”

The poster child for this new attitude is Earnhardt, whom Amp and the National Guard signed to a sponsorship deal for a reported $25 million a year. Previously, he had driven for Budweiser.

Two spots, in which Amp gives Earnhardt an energy boost needed to battle a gorilla and race camels, are being considered for the big game. BBDO, New York, handles. Tag: “Amp yourself.” Radio, print and the “Fuel Your Passion” user-generated content program support.

As on the track, Amp (which launched in 2001) and Earnhardt have plenty of competition. No. 2 Red Bull announced last week that it would make its 16.9 oz. can a permanent offering. The sugar-free version will also debut this quarter. Monster is No. 1 with 27 percent of the category.

New competitors are always on the horizon. AriZona, for example, last week announced it’s begun testing its 16 oz. non-carbonated All City NRG energy drink.

Coca-Cola distributes No. 3 Rock Star and owns No. 4 Full Throttle and growing Nos brand. Pepsi, meanwhile, is parent to two other top-10 brands: SoBe No Fear and Adrenaline Rush.

Still, Amp will get most of the attention. At retail, the Dale Jr. Collector Series of 12 oz. sleek cans will be available during prime beverage season (May-July). Account-specific packaging began hitting stores last week, including Wal-Mart eight packs for $8.88, a tie-in with Earnhardt’s car number 88. Eighty-eight AMP show cars will appear in retail locations all season long. Point of purchase will promote Amp as “Energy that drives you.” The drink will also sponsor the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega on Oct. 5.

While Amp is making a conscious effort to separate itself from its Mountain Dew sibling, it will partner with the No. 4 soft drink for the “Old School/New School” national promotion from May to July. Consumers will be invited to enter codes at to win a variety of cutting edge prizes, as well as vintage items like sneakers, video games and apparel. “It was born out of Dew. We will quietly maintain a hint of it, but we want to downplay it,” said Herrara.

Pepsi spent $10 million-plus on media for Amp for the first 11 months of 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. This year, “we’re going to play big,” said Herrera. “Amp will get a tremendous amount of focus.”