×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mountain Dew Embraces Drone Racing With Discovery Channel Event

After years of supporting live sporting contests organized by the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA, Madison Avenue is sniffing around the virtual kind.

With so-called “eSports”  – or video game competitions – gaining more popularity, PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew soda is preparing to embrace the nascent sport of drone racing. This August, the citrus-y drink will present a new “DR1 Invitational,” a one-hour drone-racing special slated to air on both Discovery Channel and Science Channel, two cable networks owned by Discovery Communications. As part of its plan to lure fans of the emerging pastime, the beverage is set to sponsor drone-racing pilot Tommy “Ummagawd” Tibajia.

“We wanted to get in early and make sure we put our stamp on it,” said Manos Spanos, senior director of global brand marketing for Mountain Dew, in an interview. “Drone racing is right at the intersection of technology and entertainment and forward thinking.” A new ad from Mountain Dew is launching that features a look at a would-be “sport” called “drone hunting” but plays off the fan base built around the new races.

The event will spotlight 12 of the world’s top drone-racing pilots as they vie for the title at Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles this summer. Pilots will control drones from the top of the dam and each will maneuver a craft around a gauntlet of obstacles while the drones hit speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. The race will be broken up into various heats, qualifiers and finals over the course of two days.

In the not-too-distant past, TV sports were all about watching the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat while human beings pushed their actual bodies to the limit. Now, simulated feats of derring-do are generating more interest. Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting and WME/IMG recently formed a new eSports league that will have TBS broadcast 20 live events over the course of 2016. Walt Disney’s ESPN is expected to live-stream the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships from New York in early August, and tout the event on its cable networks.

Even virtual sports can generate thrills. “It started with people watching others just flying around a field. From there it’s been growing like crazy.” said Jimmy Whisenhunt, partnerships manager, media organizations at Twitch, the live-streaming video-gaming outlet that is owned by Amazon. DR1 will be the first series to stream live globally on Twitch, which is live-streaming content related to drone-racing contest and culture two nights a week. The first drone-racing event streamed on Twitch ran about 48 minutes, Whisenhunt estimated, and viewers stuck around for the duration.

Executives at Mountain Dew see an opportunity to communicate with young consumers between the ages of 16 and 25, said Spanos, as well as older millennials, and, perhaps, even a broader crowd. The fan base coalescing around drone racing  consists of “people who want to do things differently, people who want to instigate things and have a good time,” said Spanos. “”Drone racing, right now, is evolving. It’s changing. The rules around racing and drones are being drawn up as we speak and that’s where we want to fit – where things are still shaping up.”

Mountain Dew has long embraced extreme and action sports, whether they be the many instances of motocross and skateboarding found in its commercials over the years or its sponsorship of ESPN’s  X Games and the now-defunct Gravity Games that were owned via  partnership of Primedia, NBC Sports and the Octagon sports-marketing agency.

By the time the Discovery broadcasts are complete, the beverage’s backers will know whether simulated action is as attractive to consumers as the real thing.

More TV

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

  • Punisher Jessica Jones

    Marvel's 'The Punisher,' 'Jessica Jones' Canceled at Netflix

    The last of Netflix’s Marvel shows are officially ending. “The Punisher” has been canceled after its second season, and the upcoming third season of “Jessica Jones” will be its last, Netflix confirmed on Monday. The announcement comes after Netflix gave the ax to its other Marvel series: “Daredevil,” “Iron First,” and “Luke Cage.” “Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ will [...]

  • SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake'

    SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake' With 'Desperate Parents' Producer

    SND, the commercial arm of the French TV network M6, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “Family Shake,” a comedy series written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc. SND is the latest vertically integrated French film group to start handling live-action series, following TF1 Studio, Studiocanal and Gaumont, among others. Produced by Gaëlle Cholet at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content