PepsiCo has officially entered the eSports arena through its Mountain Dew brand. The soft drink maker is giving gamers a chance to become professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players through the new amateur Mountain Dew League (MDL). In partnership with the ESL, the 20-week global tournament will bring 7,400 players down to nine teams. The MDL global championship will culminate with one amateur team joining next season’s ESL CS:GO Pro League.
Sonika Patel, senior manager of marketing for Mountain Dew, explains the strategy the brand has taken with its first foray into eSports in this exclusive interview.
Why did you decide to enter the eSports arena?
ESports is quickly becoming an integral part of gaming culture. As instigators in this space, we want to push the boundaries of competitive gaming and enable everyone in this community to take part in the experiences. Dew has had a rich legacy in the gaming world since 2003, and with eSports becoming mainstream, we wanted to have an impact on how amateur gamers can take their talents to a professional level. We worked closely with OMD Zero Code, a team that specializes in the gaming space, to create a program that was not only authentic to the eSport environment, but offered real value to players and fans, thus aligning with Dew’s already established equity within the gaming industry.
Why did you decide to focus on CS:GO with your first eSports activation?
Dew has a history of partnering with the biggest titles in gaming to give gamers more value. With the scale and growth of CS:GO, we knew they were the right partner. Viewers can easily understand the game, but it also offers depth to keep more experienced viewers engaged. Additionally, the players’ style and personality are perfect for storytelling. Fans really create a strong bond with players, teams and leagues, which felt like a natural fit for Dew.
What has this partnership with ESL been like thus far in terms of working together?
At Dew, we take pride in being a cultural instigator, which makes ESL a great fit for us. As the world’s largest eSports company, they’re truly an industry leader with numerous online and offline competitions that reach our Dew consumer. We’re excited that our partnership with ESL is unique, in that it gives everyone a platform to participate on a level playing field.
How does the CS:GO eSports audience align with your Dew brand?
Both brands, CS:GO and Dew, have a similar demographic from an age and gender perspective, but there’s also a natural overlap in the way they interact with the brands—super passionate and engaged.
How will you decide on which players can enter this amateur league across territories?
The league is open to players across the United States, the European Union, Australia and Brazil. Go to ESEA.net for more information and to sign up for the qualifiers.
How will the MDL global championship differ from the Coke Zero Challenger amateur league for League of Legends?
Dew is creating a completely new league that would not otherwise exist, which is different from other branded sponsorships of existing leagues. Dew is not only providing a guaranteed spot into the pros, but actively helping players grow as e-athletes with coaching, top gear and access to events and influential personalities they wouldn’t otherwise have. The Mountain Dew League is a deliberate entry into eSports, strategically aligning the brand in championing the narrative of aspiring amateur athletes and their journey to pro gamer.
Can you break out the three main prongs of the MDL?
The league takes place over three distinct phases:
Phase 1: Starting now through the end of August, gamers can compete in open qualifiers for a chance to join the league.
Phase 2: At the end of August, the top 24 will be selected to compete in the Mountain Dew League. Over the course of the following nine weeks, these 24 teams will compete head-to-head in a round-robin-style competition.
Phase 3: The top six teams will make the playoffs at the end of the year, and two will move on to the MDL Championship Finals to be filmed live in December. This structure will be mirrored in every participating region so the final event will feature 6 teams in total battling it out for the title of MDL champions. The entire competition will be accessible for fans to watch on ESL channels.
Will there be any money up for grabs for the winners?
Yes. The MDL will have over $125,000 up for grabs with the winning teams from North America and Europe earning a spot to compete for $750,000 in the next season of Pro League.
How will Dew cross-promote this competition through its own channels?
We’re excited to support the MDL messaging and custom content throughout the campaign across all channels. Twitch is also signed on as a partner, and will help deliver all of the content we create to eSports fans across the globe.
It was also very important to align closely with ESL and its community, creating a program that feels authentic to the platform and its audience. In keeping with this, all MDL content will live first and foremost on ESL channels. The hope is this becomes an integral part of the ESL ecosystem.
How will Dew work with ESL to livestream these matches and how often will they occur?
ESL will be working with ESEA, and Mountain Dew League matches will be streamed live at least three nights a week on twitch.tv/ESEA. Additionally, the MDL Championship will be a live event that will be streamed from a yet-to-be-announced location.
Do you have plans for the amateur league to become part of the ESL minor league system?
We’re excited to kick off year one, and would love to see this become a part of the ESL ecosystem. As Dew has been a major player in the gaming space, we continue to look for ways to enhance the gaming experience for our fans for future years!
Are there plans to incorporate CS:GO onto cans or products, as we’ve seen Red Bull and Coke do with other eSports games?
As of now, we don’t plan to incorporate this on cans or products. The idea was to enable gamers to advance in their gaming aspirations in an authentic way and give them the opportunities they truly want.