PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew has always had a strong presence in sports-related advertising. It’s a brand that targets sports and athletes that represent a certain lifestyle and attitude. It’s a brand synonymous with the extreme.
Now, however, Mountain Dew is pushing past established sports, instead boldly embracing the rising sport of drone racing with the announcement that it will sponsor a one-hour racing special this August. Called the “DR1 Invitational,” this special will air on the Discovery Channel and Science Channel, and will showcase 12 of the world’s best drone racing pilots (with Mountain Dew specifically sponsoring Tommy “UmmaGawd” Tibajia).
The races will be held at the Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles, with the pilots situated atop the dam, and will consist of several different rounds of competition.
It sounds like a thrilling event, and it’s a daring move by Mountain Dew to attempt to get in on the ground floor with a sport that appears to be generating buzz. But the fact that Mountain Dew has worked out a way to air the competition on traditional television as opposed to an online streaming service has major implications for the rise of the sport in the near future.
One way drone racing could get a boost? Some of the bookmakers who have the potential to provide a betting market for it will be eyeing events like these that may draw millions of viewers. One official from Ladbrokes said that he wanted to see how the first race goes, implying that bookmakers need data about viewership, race statistics, competition rules, and league setups before they can offer odds and establish a betting market.
But the more we see events like the one Mountain Dew has decided to help generate this August, the more opportunity there is for bookmakers to grow comfortable with the sport. And as we’ve seen with eSports, viewership and betting activity seem to have a way of boosting one another in turn.
Showcases like the Mountain Dew special also provide a sort of free test run for large networks that might be considering consistent airtime for drone racing. We’ve known for a little while now that ESPN will air drone racing on a multi-year contract, and it’s expected that we’ll start seeing the races this August on ESPN3, the online and mobile streaming service that shows everything ESPN covers.
However, if ESPN sees a one-hour special on the Discovery Channel garner strong ratings, they may be more inclined to push for a few prime-time drone racing events on their main television channels.
It’s the latest in a pretty rapid series of exciting developments concerning the rise of drone racing. We don’t yet know what this will look like if and when it becomes a “major” sport, but it’s starting to look like the beginnings of drone racing will represent a level of popularity similar to some established extreme sports.