- PepsiCo's Mtn Dew Kickstart announced via a news release that it has signed NBA Draft prospect Marvin Bagley III as its latest Rising Stars athlete. Bagley joins other Rising Stars, including Joel Embiid, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Smith Jr., for the program that gives fans a look at the next generation of top players.
- The partnership with Bagley kicks off with an event at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem ahead of the NBA Draft on June 21. "Kickin' It Courtside @ St. Nick's" will include an unveiling of a refurbished basketball court that features a mural from street artist JC Ro. The event will also include appearances by the Harlem Wizards and The Dynamic Diplomats, music by DJ Mode, food trucks, Mountain Dew drinks and the chance to win NBA Draft tickets and other prizes.
- The brand is celebrating its first year as a partner in the NBA All-Star Rising Stars game and is expanding the event into a yearlong platform to give fans a look into the athletes' courtside lifestyles. Bagley joins other brand athletes, including NBA All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. For the 2018-19 season, Mountain Dew is continuing its marketing push with activations, TV, digital and social media with the "Closer than Courtside" campaign.
As live sports viewership continues to decline on TV, more brands are striving to reach fans with in-person and experiential activations. Bringing on a top NBA prospect as brand ambassador gives Mountain Dew higher visibility ahead of the 2018 draft, which is sure to be a closely-watched event for the league. Out-of-home experiences that include trendy offerings, such as food trucks, are also proving more popular with marketers as they seek new ways to reach consumers and drive social media engagement.
Last year, ESPN's digital coverage of the NBA Draft set streaming records, drawing an average minute streaming audience of 135,200 viewers and more than 1.1 million unique visitors, according to ESPN data cited in Variety. This marked a 107% increase over the previous year, according to ESPN. The NBA has also seen huge popularity on Instagram, with more than 29 million viewers — more than any other major sports league.
The expansion of the Rising Stars roster also comes as Mountain Dew is deepening its ties with the NBA. "Closer than Courtside" launched in February, around the 2018 NBA All-Star weekend, as a 360-degree, yearlong campaign. Kevin Hart has been one of the push's more visible brand ambassadors. Hart starred in the "Give Your Head a Mtn Dew Kickstart" campaign, which depicted fantasies that run through his head when he drinks the beverage.