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PepsiCo signs endorsement deal with Dr. Disrespect, but does it realize the risks?

PepsiCo is making one of its biggest investments yet in the video game space, signing a multiyear deal with streamer Dr. Disrespect that will see the popular (and controversial) livecaster promote its Mtn Dew Game Fuel product.

Dr. Disrespect
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

While PepsiCo did not reveal a dollar amount, Guy Beahm, the real person behind the Dr. Disrespect character, signed a seven-figure endorsement deal in 2017 with G Fuel. The Game Fuel agreement is presumed to be several times that amount. The company says it believes it to be the largest endorsement deal ever signed by an individual gaming personality.

“He’s obviously a larger-than-life personality,” Erin Chin, senior marketing director for the drink, told Digital Trends. “And we’ve enjoyed watching him and his antics over the past several months and decided he would be a really great partner. His focus and determination to win is perfectly in line with the Game Fuel brand.”

It’s a high-profile jump into the streaming waters that’s certain to raise awareness of the energy drink, but it’s not a deal that comes without some risk. Dr. Disrespect – “Doc” to his fans – has 4.4 million followers on Twitch and, with his mullet wig, pornstache, and dark glasses, is one of the most recognizable streamers around.  He long ago dubbed himself “the face of Twitch”.

The partnership will extend beyond Twitch, with Doc incorporating Game Fuel into his social media channels and livestreams, as well as through the creation of custom content.

Dr. Disrepsect is not without controversy, however. In 2019, he found himself ejected from E3 and banned from Twitch after livestreaming from the bathroom, violating Twitch’s privacy rules and California privacy laws. He apologized in a tweet several weeks later and was allowed back onto Twitch after a two-week time out.

PepsiCo officials say they were aware of the past issues, but don’t feel there’s any risk to the brand’s reputation.

“We vetted him fully,” Chin says. “Everyone makes mistakes, and we still think he’s a good person who can represent the brand in way that is responsible and aligns with our core values.”

The Dr. Disrespect character strives to parody toxic gamers by holding up a figurative mirror. Doc is, in many ways, a collection of stereotypes all encapsulated into a tall guy in a bad wig. He has trash-talked other streamers (including Ninja, whose endorsement deals include Red Bull, Adidas, and an exclusive contract with Microsoft’s Mixer streaming service). He has made numerous racially insensitive jokes to non-English speaking groups. He’s had shots fired at his house during streams, and he even confessed to infidelity in an out-of-character stream two years ago (ultimately taking two months off to focus on his family).

Beahm himself has noted the difficulty he has balancing the character with actions that go too far.

“Doc is edgy, highly opinionated, cocky, etc., and that certainly adds to the difficulty in staying authentic without offending anyone on a deeper, personal level,” he said in his post-E3 apology. “I think those that have followed me for years outside of the character, even before Twitch, know what kind of person I am. I have an incredible support system from family, friends, business partners, community, and following. I’m very lucky to be considered an influential person in this entertainment space. Believe me, I don’t take it for granted.”

Controversy lures viewers in the streaming world, though. Before confessing his marital problems in 2017, he boasted 1.4 million followers. Before the E3 incident, he had 3.2 million.

And it’s those fans who seek outrageous behavior that plays right into the target audience for Mtn Dew Game Fuel. The drink launched last year with core gamers in mind and an initial partnership with Activision’s Call of Duty franchise.

The drink has been a bright spot for PepsiCo since its launch. Along with Gatorade Zero and bubly, it was responsible for $1 billion in retail sales in 2019, the company said on an earnings call in February.

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