Deepens Involvement in Snow, Surf and Skateboard Culture

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CHICAGO -- Already a big sponsor of extreme-sports events, PepsiCo's Mountain Dew is taking its interest in snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding one step further: The beverage brand is launching a new film division to produce action-sports movies.
Vermont-based Fuse will handle production of MD Films' upcoming snowboarding documentary.

Called MD Films, the branded-entertainment project is a closely guarded secret, but it is said John Galloway, director of sports marketing for Pepsi-Cola North America, has championed the idea, and Pepsi already has trademarked the name and created a logo for the film production entity.

Fuse to produce first film

Mr. Galloway has retained Burlington, Vt.-based production company Fuse to produce a new snowboarding documentary, according to executives.

The documentary, described as Mountain Dew’s snowboarding version of apparel maker Vans’ skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z Boys, is now being shot with the help of Transition Productions, which has produced a number of action sports TV shows for ESPN and MTV and commercial work for marketers including K2 Snowboards and King of the Hill Snowboarding.

Pepsi and Fuse declined to comment or disclose further details.

However, the move sends the No. 2 beverage behemoth deeper into the $12 billion-a-year action-sports gestalt after earlier bankrolling a series of skateboarding DVDs called Brick and Mortar under the Mountain Dew brand. Mountain Dew gave away the DVDs, which were shot by independent filmmakers as skateboard-lifestyle compilation films, as freebies through retailer and screening parties. Guerilla marketing shop Mirrorball, New York, handled that effort. Thousands of copies are also distributed through local skateboarding shops, record stores and T-shirt shops.

DVD films as popular as trading cards

Marketers involved in action sports have discovered that such films have become as popular for the sport genre as trading cards have been for baseball.

Another player in the same field is Quiksilver, which backed the surfing documentary Riding Giants last year. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically, where it earned $2.5 million in ticket sales worldwide. Dogtown and Z Boys also premiered at Sundance.

MD Films could adopt the same strategy -- produce a movie, premier it at a major film festival like Sundance, then have it make the theatrical rounds -- before generating even more revenue on DVD.

Quiksilver also has launched its own entertainment unit and DVD distribution venture called Union, which will produce and market as many as 300 direct-to-video films for action-sports enthusiasts. However, Union won’t solely be dependent upon product produced by Quiksilver; the company stresses that its corporate rivals such as Globe Shoes, Rip Curl, Volcom and Grenade Gloves could also distribute their films through Union. So could MD Films.

Wants to be 'authentic' supplier

“Mountain Dew wants to be an authentic supplier to the sport. They don’t want to look like they’re capitalizing on sports, [but that] they are part of sports,” said Fran Richards, group publisher of the Future Action Sports group of Future Network USA. “The more they’re in the game with people the more they win by association. Mountain Dew has been more credible than any of the other big guys.”

This June, Mountain Dew kicks off its Dew Action Sports Tour, produced by Apparent Gravity Media and owned by NBC Universal and Clear Channel Entertainment. The summer tour will feature five events where athletes will compete in skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross competitions.

Pepsi has increasingly infiltrated the action-sports world since it sponsored ESPN’s X-Games and the Vans Triple Crown Series. Snowboarding phenoms Shaun White and Luke Mitrani are on Pepsi’s athlete endorsement roster.
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