By Adam Waldman
Super Bowl commercials have become almost as important as the game itself. In fact, for viewers who are not football fans, the commercials are arguably more important than the game. This year’s Super Bowl ad prices were an exorbitant $5 million for a 30-second spot, a number that is beyond the reach of many large companies, much less small businesses. However, one very cool small business made a big impact as the winner of a Quickbooks competition that featured over 15,000 contestants. Of course, only Death Wish Coffee had a direct connection to one of the greatest guitarists in the history of hard rock and metal…Zakk Wylde, whose fanbase helped this underdog company emerge victorious over their competition.
Although the NFL has a taste for homogenized halftime entertainment, and totally disregards rock music, the power of metal was still on display when the Death Wish Coffee commercial aired amidst multi-billion dollar corporations. You’re probably wondering why Wylde encouraged his fanbase to support a small coffee company from upstate New York. Is it that the company has the most metal name in the coffee world? Is it that the company has the coolest (skull and bones) logo in the coffee world? Is it because he wanted to be associated with “the world’s strongest coffee?” It’s safe to say that all of these factors led Wylde to Death Wish Coffee when he decided to launch his own coffee brand…Valhalla Java.
THE ORIGIN OF DEATH WISH COFFEE
Death Wish Coffee founder/CEO Mike Brown used to be an accountant, but gave it up to open up a coffee shop in Saratoga Springs, NY called Saratoga Coffee Traders. Having one small coffee shop location in a somewhat pricey area made it difficult to earn a profit. However, the inspiration for what would become Death Wish Coffee was born out of Brown’s interaction with his customers who demanded the strongest coffee that he had to help power them through their days. This sent Brown on a quest to find out what was considered to be the “world’s strongest coffee.” When nothing presented itself after doing extensive research, Brown took it upon himself to create the world’s strongest coffee. After countless weeks of late nights, early mornings, cupping and a lot of testing, Brown finally found the perfect blend of beans. Death Wish Coffee was born!
THE POWER OF TEAMWORK
Upon realizing that he had something special, Brown assembled a small team of dedicated workers to help him bring “the world’s strongest coffee” to the world. This team has worked tirelessly together to help spread the word about Death Wish Coffee. There is no arguing that their work has paid off handsomely.
If Hollywood had written a script where a small coffee company connects with one of the most respected guitarists in the world, and that this pairing would work together to win a contest for a Super Bowl ad, the story might have seemed a bit far-fetched. But for those who love an underdog story, hard rock, metal and/or extremely strong coffee…the teamwork of Wylde, his fans and Death Wish Coffee is one for the ages.
THE PATH TO THE SUPER BOWL
In a recent interview with Hard Rock Daddy, Kane Grogan (Death Wish Coffee) shared the story of the path that the company took to end up with an ad in the Super Bowl…
“Death Wish Coffee entered the Quickbooks contest for a Super Bowl ad in June of 2015. All of the companies competing where considered ‘small businesses’ because they had 50 employees or less. However, most weren’t as small in size or revenue as us. Some of our competitors generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenue, so I honestly didn’t think that we had much of a chance to win. Thankfully, Quickbooks is very small business-oriented, so they took our entire story into account. It wasn’t until we made it into the top 10, that we thought that we actually had a chance to win. Everyone in the top 10 had great stories and big followings, so we still seemed like a bit of a long shot.
THE ZAKK WYLDE EFFECT
Once we made it into the top 10, it was just about votes, and Zakk was instrumental in helping to push us over the top. It was really close as we got towards the end, but we made it into the top 3, before being named the overall winner.
MORE THAN JUST A COMMERCIAL IN THE SUPER BOWL…
Winning this contest was basically like winning a seven million dollar prize ($5 million to buy the space, $1 million to produce the commercial and another million to promote it). What you actually get is worth so much more than $7 million though. It’s a great story, and since we have such an accessible product, things have really taken off. When we were announced as the winners, it was picked up by a lot news outlets and print publications, and the YouTube video of the commercial had several million views within the first three days of launching.
KICKING THINGS INTO OVERDRIVE
While the cash value of winning was $7 million, the residual benefits of the exposure that we’ve gotten has to be the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars of free advertising. This boost has fast-tracked all of our plans. We’ve actually hit numbers already that were projected for 10 years from now. Thankfully, we had all of our systems in place, so we were able to handle the influx of business and scale things accordingly. If we capitalize on this opportunity properly, we can quickly become a national brand. As it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if over a billion people have heard of us by now.
FEELING THE IMPACT OF THE SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL…
We actually started to feel the impact of the Super Bowl commercial ten days prior to the game as we competed in the top 3, so there was already a lot of coverage and exposure. In some ways, the actual exposure during the Super Bowl doesn’t generate as much response because people are out at parties. You do get an instant reaction, but the reaction is greater when people see it in print or on their computer. The retention rate is higher on the exposure that comes with the Super Bowl ad than the 30-second spot itself, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t an absolute explosion when it aired. Within 10 seconds of the commercial airing, we had a ton of people visit the website.