Dr Pepper investing heavily in college conference championship, playoff activation

(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) has invested heavily in activation during college football postseason games, starting with this weekend’s four Power Five college football conference championship games. Dr Pepper is the named sponsor for the ACC Championship and the presenting sponsor for the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC championship games.

Dr Pepper’s aggressive expansion in college football culminates with its place as the first official Championship Partner and presenting sponsor for the College Football Playoff, a deal that may cost the soft-drink producer more than $35 million per season. By casting a wide sponsorship net, Dr Pepper is hoping to connect with its “core consumers through their passion points, such as college football,” as explained by Cindy Hourigan, Dr Pepper Snapple VP of sponsorship.


Dr Pepper is attempting to monopolize college football postseason sponsorships. “This is the biggest sponsorship deal we’ve done,” explained Jim Trebilcock, DPS EVP of marketing. “This will be our version of the Super Bowl.” Dr Pepper’s strategy includes direct marketing to fans including a season-long tuition giveaway contest and pregame fan entertainment.

A big part of DPS’ college football success, however, is from its close relationship with ESPN. ESPN and its parent company ABC are hosting the SEC Championship Game as well as all three College Football Playoff games thanks to a $470 million a year deal signed in 2012. Because DPS sponsored the BCS Championship trophy from 2010 to 2014, it was logical for ESPN to bring DPS along for the transition to the College Football Playoff.

But DPS isn’t alone. Taco Bell, a subsidiary of rival PepsiCo, entered the College Football Playoff by offering 500 free seats to students from each school in the three playoff games. The Live Mas Student Section has been heavily advertised with a commercial featuring University of Oregon students and broadcaster Rece Davis.

This is a smart investment by DPS. The limited number of teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff raises the importance of the individual conference games, and the FBS’ first experiment with a tournament-style playoff will almost certainly draw curious as well as rabid viewers.

Activating now also puts Dr Pepper in an enviable position for the future of the College Football Playoff. It’s only a matter of time before the playoff expands beyond its current four-team format, and it’s safe to assume that when that happens, Dr Pepper will have first priority on sponsoring an eight- or even 12-team playoff.

You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Nick_Zobel.

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