Monster Goes Small While Amp Goes Big

There is a moment before the moment when you get “Amped up” to race a car, get your first tattoo or take the stage. Amp Energy is trying to own that moment, that nervous energy, in its new ad campaign which broke during the Daytona 500.

The brand positioning is apropos for the hard-charging PepsiCo-owned energy drink. The No. 4 brand in the category continues to make its move with the help of a big budget media spend (it will shell out in excess of $20 million this year ) and its high-profile partnership with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Will it ever reach the moment where it gets to occupy the No. 1 pole position currently held by Red Bull? Amp’s marketing director Maurice Herrera thinks so. “We’re working on that. I’m very much anticipating that.”

Meanwhile, rival Monster Energy has other plans. The brand is currently No. 1 in volume by virtue of the fact that its primary product comes in a 16-oz. can. Red Bull, best known for its 8.3-oz. can, is still No. 1 in terms of sales, however.

Monster, which helped reinvent the category by rolling out the larger size can, is hoping to do it again. Only this time it is looking to go smaller by focusing on a 3-oz. energy shot. It has already introduced the Monster Hitman Energy Shooter and is prepping a Monster branded item instead of the current sub-line. “Not to be arrogant, but when we innovate, the category follows,” said Monster Beverage president Mark Hall. He said other new “novel innovations” are also ready to debut.

The energy shot category leader is currently 5-hour Energy, a brand owned by Living Essentials, which by Hall’s summation is “a direct response company that sells [penis enlargement pills] and the Chaser hangover pill. They are currently the leader by a wide margin, but they don’t have the distribution system, product or packaging to sustain it.”

In October, Monster signed a distribution deal with Coca-Cola that will greatly expand its reach. The agreement dealt a blow to No. 3 Rockstar, which had previously been carried by the Coke system.

Rockstar’s volume was already down 3 percent for the first nine months of 2008, per Beverage Digest. It was the only brand in the top four to see a decline.

The energy category overall was up 7.9 percent for the period, making it and enhanced waters the only major beverage segments to experience growth. Red Bull grew 11 percent, Monster was up 18 percent while Amp surged 57 percent. “This year we are poised to do as well or better,” said Herrera.

Amp “has done very well, but with a great deal of marketing support and numerous line extensions,” said Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights. “Some in the segment wonder how well it will do if Pepsi ever takes its foot off the pedal.”

That certainly isn’t going to happen this year. Amp launched three new flavors: Lightning (lemonade), Rebuild (black tea) and Defend (green tea).

Three new Dale Jr. ads, from BBDO, New York, are currently on air. “Moment” kicks off the new positioning that will be extended to situations Amp’s high-energy consumers experience. “Shotgun” introduces a behind-the-scenes short film Dale fans can watch at “Get in gear” debuts a code-based promotion where consumers can win prizes like Dale Jr. Amp #88 gear.

“Last year was about driving awareness,” said Herrera. “This year is about generating relevance and touting ourselves as a lifestyle brand.”

But will it be able to overtake Red Bull who just signed pro football’s Reggie Bush as a spokesperson? Said Khermouch: “If anyone dethrones Red Bull in the U.S., the betting is that it’s more likely Monster than Amp.”