Mountain Dew is zeroing in on gamers as the next big digital marketing trend. Here’s why betting big on a niche market could result in a cool payoff for the brand.

Mountain Dew will be the first of its category to invest in esports, with plans to spend 40% of its marketing budget this year to reach gamers and gamer fans, increase sponsorships with esports leagues, and double down on digital efforts to do the same across Twitch and Facebook. Given that sports drink ads usually portray athletes drinking the beverages to prepare for real-life sports like soccer and football, this isn’t too much of a stretch.

But what’s surprising is that the strategy is bucking a major trend in the beverage sector: wellness. Bottled water sales now outpace soda, and sparkling water consumption has more than doubled since 2010. Products in the matcha, sparkling water, and coffee categories on Amazon saw the largest rank increase among best-selling beverage products on the platform, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beverages & Beer.

While many soft drinks are succumbing to the health trend, Mountain Dew is digging even deeper into its non-traditional roots—a move that could bubble excitement within fans. In the past, non-traditional, extreme sports like BMX biking and snowboarding have long been the lifeblood of Mountain Dew’s marketing strategy. Esports may seem comparatively tamer, but they still carry a streak of rebellion thanks to their niche status, although this might change as they become one of the fastest-growing areas of the consumer world. Even luxury label Moschino recently tapped into the trend for its latest collection.

Leaning into what makes your brand different can be risky but also rewarding. Arby’s, for example, embraced its status as a sandwich maker among cheeseburger champions with success. Given the growing popularity of gaming and the nontraditional nuances attached to the activity, Mountain Dew might have a shot at standing out—which might be just what it needs to trickle out of the Average zone, where it currently sits in Gartner L2’s ranking.

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