Dr Pepper had a rough time last year with that Guns N' Roses challenge. Well, forget all that, because a teenage guitar hero is a better bet than an over-the-hill rock star any day.
Major League Gaming, the world's largest pro video-game league, might sound like a pimply dorkfest, but the five events on its 2009 circuit attract 15,000 competitors and fans, plus millions of online views. Three-day tourneys are organized in a bracketed system that involves Halo 3 and Gears of War 2 competitions. Dr Pepper sponsors the league and the top-rated team, Str8 Rippin. "Mainstream sports and entertainment is so cluttered. ... Consumers don't really care who's sponsoring their favorite teams," says Josh Levine, president of Rebel Industries, a Los Angeles-based marketing agency that helps Pepper reach young gamers. "Kids hang out in the booth for hours [and] are hugely supportive of sponsors that acknowledge the significance of competitive gaming."
The Dr Pepper Gaming Lounge is populated by Dr Pepper Girls who serve sodas and pose for photos with fans. Str8 Rippin team members practice against other teams while fans watch from the sidelines or join in when there's an opening. Digital extensions include a Facebook page and text-to-win promotions. Str8 Rippin's star player is Tom "Tsquared" Taylor (shown here), who has a three-year, $250,000 contract and his image plastered on a collectible can. "Str8 Rippin are stars, and [kids] are excited to hang out with them and get beaten by them at Halo 3," says Levine, whose agency worked with local shop M-80 on the project. "We try to make the booth a lot of fun and not feel too corporate."
—Posted by Becky Ebenkamp