Adios, Amp: PepsiCo will play up Diet Mountain Dew on the 88

Jay Busbee
From the Marbles

PepsiCo is about to (sorry about this) turn down the Amp on the 88.

A report in Sports Business Daily indicates that PepsiCo will phase out the Amp brand on the hood of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 88 in favor of Diet Mountain Dew. PepsiCo holds primary sponsorship rights for 20 races on the 88 in 2012, and 16 of those will now carry the Diet Mountain Dew sponsorship. Amp will retain the rest.

PepsiCo is reaching out to Earnhardt's fan base with Diet Mountain Dew, hoping to connect with them via the sport's most popular driver. George Cox, Mountain Dew brand manager, had a comment that could only come from a brand manager, since nobody actually talks like this in reality: "The story is really about opportunity," he said, according to SBD. "With Dew, Dale and NASCAR there's this awesome marriage. Dale is the embodiment of the person we're trying to target with Diet Dew. We wanted to tap into that equity Dew has in NASCAR and put it into overdrive with Dale."

Amp's connection with Earnhardt goes back to 2007, when Earnhardt signed with Hendrick and set off one of the more lucrative sponsorships in NASCAR history. Amp signed on for primary sponsorship of the 88 for 20 races per year at an estimated value of $25 million to $30 million.

The problem is that while Junior has picked up his pace since then, the energy drink category hasn't quite grown at the same pace as it had before his sponsorship. SBD noted that research by Mintel indicated that the energy drink category added 9.3 million new consumers from 2005 to 2007 but only 1 million from 2007 to 2009.

Still, the Amp brand rose from fifth among all energy drinks pre-Earnhardt to fourth now and third in NASCAR markets. The company plans to keep the connection to Earnhardt in some smaller, as-yet-undetermined capacity.

The National Guard will continue to serve as the primary sponsor for Earnhardt's 18 other races.

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