How A Super Bowl Commercial Made This Multi-Million Dollar Coffee Company

Have you ever wondered why almost all the commercials you see during a Super Bowl are hawking big-company brands such as Pringles and Bud Light? Of course you haven't. You know that only giants such as Kellogg's, which makes Pringles, and Anheuser-Busch can afford $5.5 million for 30 seconds of ad time (via CNBC).

For smaller companies – take, for example, Death Wish Coffee in 2015 – $5 million can be a year's worth of revenue (via Vox). If Death Wish paid for a Super Bowl ad they would get a boatload of publicity for a bankrupt business.

That's where Intuit came in. They're a big company themselves, makers of the popular small-business accounting software called QuickBooks (via CNN). Apparently not needing a Super Bowl ad to pitch their own product, Intuit decided to hold a contest instead. They would pay the winner's bill on a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl airing in February 2016. After counting the online votes, Intuit named Death Wish Coffee the winner from a field of 15,000 applicants. Thirty seconds of Vikings rowing to their glorious deaths on a sea of strong black coffee later, and Death Wish Coffee was never the same again.

Since the Super Bowl, Death Wish Coffee went from 7 stores to thousands

For Death Wish Coffee, the impact of winning Intuit QuickBooks' Small Business Big Game contest was immediate. Sales volume increased by 22 times the week before the Super Bowl because Intuit posted the commercial on YouTube a week and a half before the game (via Vox). Toward the end of that year, Death Wish was anticipating $15 million in sales, owner Mike Brown told CNN. The company had made $6 million the previous year. When 2016 was over, Death Wish actually had $20 million in sales (via The QuickBooks Blog).

Before Super Bowl 50 in 2016, you could only find Death Wish Coffee online and in seven different stores. By mid-2016, they had expanded to sell "the world's strongest coffee" in 150 stores. Today, Death Wish is in thousands of stores (via the Death Wish website).

With all this fame and growth has come more opportunities. Death Wish was the official coffee sponsor of New York Comic Con, and it sent freeze-dried Death Wish to provide a jolt to the astronauts on the International Space Station. Dun & Bradstreet, the business data company, reports that in 2019 Death Wish Coffee had $10.48 million in sales, suggesting the company had come down from the high of its Super Bowl year. Death Wish is still much bigger than before, but we don't figure the coffee company is quite ready yet to spend its own money on a Super Bowl commercial.