The NCAA – the governing body of college athletics – maintains stringent regulations to ensure fair play among athletes. One of its more intriguing rules identifies caffeine as a performance-enhancing substance. Death Wish Coffee is leveraging NIL opportunities to poke fun at this rule.
In a groundbreaking move, the coffee manufacturer has become the first company to anonymously sign and sponsor college athletes. Its unconventional campaign was brought to the forefront through a commercial featuring football players holding a cup of coffee. The faces of these players were obscured, and will remain so in any other advertisements to avoid potential NCAA penalties.
At the heart of this unique campaign is the NCAA’s classification of coffee as a performance enhancer beyond the third cup. Death Wish Coffee has embraced this rule and transformed it into the “Performance Enhancing Coffee” campaign, which serves as a prelude to the broader brand initiative, “Live With a Death Wish.” This overarching brand platform aims to inspire individuals to live life as boldly as the coffee tastes.
The NIL campaign is strategically promoted by sponsoring three college football players from Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, who feature in various social assets, including a hero film and digital content. The company aims to ensure that the athletes’ NIL agreements remain discreetly out of the spotlight. Just like many others, athletes rely on coffee to help them through long and demanding days. Samantha Siegal, CMO of Death Wish Coffee, aptly summed up the situation, stating, “The notion that drinking more than 3 cups of our coffee before athletic performance is technically classified as ‘performance enhancing’ is both ridiculous and understandable.”
Acknowledging that college athletes live as boldly as their campaign, Death Wish Coffee has sought a unique approach.
“We know sponsoring these athletes might get someone in trouble, so we asked, ‘Can we sponsor college athletes anonymously?'” noted Frank Garcia, Group Creative Director at Mojo Supermarket. “And that’s how our constraint became ‘Performance Enhancing Coffee,’ a campaign as bold as Death Wish Coffee itself.”
The core of the Performance Enhancing Coffee campaign is a hero film that showcases sponsored athletes excelling both on and off the field. The athletes featured in the campaign are portrayed solving complex math problems, playing the violin, and effortlessly scoring touchdowns, all while enjoying a cup of Death Wish Coffee.
One anonymous football player, highlighted the bold nature of the campaign, saying, “I know what it means to take risks. But let’s be real, nothing is riskier than messing with the NCAA. But if anyone can pull off a stunt like this, it’s gonna be Death Wish. They’re bold af for this one.”
Another anonymous athlete who had not tried Death Wish Coffee before the campaign, noted, “I’ll be honest. I hadn’t tried Death Wish Coffee before this. But with this bold move, I had to see what it’s all about. And man, I get it. This stuff is delicious and gives me the boost I need in my day. But not too much, of course wink wink.”
This anonymous partnership may be the first of its kind but what will come next? These college athletes and brands making bold moves continue to revolutionize the NIL and college athletic space.