An In-Depth Look Into Keurig’s College Sports Marketing Plan

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Coffee: It’s a staple on any college campus.  With late nights of studying–or partying–followed by early morning classes and tests, coeds across America rely upon coffee’s caffeine to make it through the best four years of their lives.

Recognizing this, earlier this week Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.–the makers of the Keurig brewing system–partnered with IMG College to become the Official Coffee/Tea System of 25 university athletic programs across the country.  The partnership marks Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ largest sports marketing initiative to date.

Introduced in 1998, the Keurig brewing system has since become the leading single cup brewing system in North America.  Green Mountain Coffee Roasters plans to further Keurig’s lead in that market by infiltrating college campuses with its products.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters identified IMG College as the conduit necessary to get its products into the hands of as many collegians as possible.  Through partnerships with nearly 80 BCS-level athletic departments, IMG College is in the unique position to reach a large number of the 27 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 24 that identify themselves as college sports fans.  “There is a tremendous opportunity to build brewing habits in this growing population. . . By reaching students in the dorm, Keurig is able to help shape and build the next generation of our consumer base by establishing the Keurig system as an essential part of the college experience,” said Keurig’s vice president of core systems, Dwight Brown.

IMG College echoed the market growth that the Keurig brewing system can see by entering into the partnership.  “Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Keurig are going through a dynamic change and evolution.  They are trying to build the next generation of coffee consumers who will brew and consume coffee one cup at a time, versus one pot at a time.  They want to reach that really hard to reach demographic of 18-to-24-year-olds.  We illustrated the unique proposition we’ve built here at IMG College, which is an aggregation of nearly 80 BCS-level schools, through which we can deliver a turnkey marketing connections at national, local and hyper-local levels,” said IMG College’s senior vice president of U.S. business development, Andrew Judelson.

What is so attractive about the college-aged market?  Simply put:  Spending power.  Studies indicate that college students have $117 billion in annual discretionary spending.  “Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is keenly interested in reaching college students for a number of reasons.  There are 11.2 million undergraduate students in the United States, aged 18-24, and 57 percent of young adults ages 18-24, drink coffee.  Keurig is building the next generation of our consumer base by establishing the Keurig system as an essential part of not only the college experience, but in everyday life,” Brown explained.

By partnering with IMG College, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is put in the unique position to not only reach this target audience, but to begin educating college sports fans of all ages about its products.  With its Keurig machines headed to university athletic departments at campuses like UCLA, Arizona, Florida, Nebraska and Texas, the company’s products will be introduced to a wide-spectrum of beverage consumers.  “The unique thing about the college proposition, is that you have a built-in, new, loyal fan base every year of 10 to 12 million people called college freshmen.  Our partners have a strategy to target the student fan, but also the ability to target an older demographic of fans and alumnus of the school,” explained Judelson.

IMG College plans to assist Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in its endeavors by launching carefully tailored and strategic activation plans across the 25 campuses.  It is expected that Keurig will design customized Keurig system machines for 11 of the 25 university partners.  Additionally, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will head to college football games this fall and basketball games in the winter to do experiential marketing through sampling opportunities.  IMG College also plans on installing signage in various university facilities to advertise the products.  A digital component exists in the structure of the deal, through IMG College’s new online digital media platform, Campus Insiders.

What IMG College found in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was a “white space”–an untapped partnership opportunity in the world of college sports in the realm of the coffee and tea beverage industry.  Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether IMG College struck gold by locating the white space and responding to it by partnering with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.  In the alternative, the possibility exists that the white space existed in the market for a reason, and college sports fans cannot be swayed to buy coffee beverages or brewing systems through strategic partnerships.  Given, though, the late nights of college students, it’s likely that the former is true, and IMG College and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have struck gold with this partnership.

Alicia Jessop

Founder of Ruling Sports


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