Mountain Dew gives gamers more caffeine

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PepsiCo is creating a Mountain Dew especially for the 180 million active players who have made the likes of Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox an exploding media platform.

Pepsi-Cola North America in early November launches MDX, an energy version of Mountain Dew aimed at gamers that is marked on the label as Variant No. 516 & Power Pack. MDX boasts 47 milligrams of caffeine (50 for the sugar-free version) for 8 ounces and a "power pack" of guarana, ginseng, taurine, maltodextrin and D-ribose. Those who sampled the fluorescent-green beverage described it as tasting like Mountain Dew but with an energy kick and a telltale tang.

Up to now, most of the marketing toward the target audience by soft-drink companies has been done using gaming metaphors in ads, within games or with dedicated gaming pages on home pages. To build buzz for the product well before it hit stores, Pepsi, however, went one step further at the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo held in May. There, it teased a promotion running from August to November in which it is giving out an Xbox 360 every 10 minutes.

Official drink

At E3, Mountain Dew was the "official soft drink" of the confab that attracted 70,000, where the company positioned MDX as game fuel to "take you to a higher level and keep you alert and focused" through marathon game sessions.

E3 is "the Super Bowl for the gaming industry," said Andrew Klein, president of Navigame. "And if you're not at the Super Bowl you probably shouldn't be at the regular season." Mike Vorhaus, managing director of media researcher Frank N. Magid Associates, called E3 an "amazing targeting" event to reach tech-oriented males ages 24 to 39, noting that some 90% of all young males play games at least once a week.

Roughly 15,000 consumers lined up at a Mountain Dew branded silver tanker truck for an hour to get a sample of the "game fuel," according to Mary Dolaher, VP-tradeshows and events for the E3. Pepsi was one of seven non-exhibiting sponsors, along with Paramount studios, G4 TV and Spike TV, who had online visibility through the web site and at the event.

In addition to its E3 presence, Mountain Dew invited gaming aficionados to participate in a beta test for input to help the product-development team "optimize" the product formula and help nail its name. Potential testers were directed to an MDX page at to sign up. Later individuals were sent a plain silver box filled with a six-pack of the drink in 14-ounce plain silver cans with a green ring and with the words "test product only" and "not for resale" along with nutrition facts. The six-pack was rigged to jump from the box when opened.

Similar mailings were also sent to core Mountain Dew music, action sports and multicultural influencers, said a Pepsi executive who confirmed details of the promotion but declined to elaborate further. Mirrorball, New York, handled the gaming strategy and the E3 presence for Pepsi. Omnicom Group's Tribal DDB, New York, handled online components and Vivid Marketing, Atlanta, handled the MDX mailer.

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