Like other energy drinks, Pepsi-Cola North American Beverages’ AMP Energy uses sponsorship as a go-to marketing medium to engage fans and gain a platform for retail promotions.

But unlike many of its competitors that take a buckshot approach to sponsorship by aligning with myriad properties ranging from motorsports teams to action sports and music, AMP primarily has focused on two partnerships–co-title of Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr.-driven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry and the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships.

AMP this year will add a third property outside motorsports and snowboarding, further demonstrating the importance of sponsorship to the brand’s marketing mix.

IEG SR recently spoke with Jeff Filiberto, AMP Energy’s senior brand manager, about the brand’s sponsorship strategy, how it uses the medium to support its positioning, and other topics. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: Energy drinks are all over motorsports, action sports and other high adrenalin property types. How does AMP gain a point of differentiation in such a cluttered environment?

Filiberto: It’s all about choosing the right partnerships that best represent your brand. That enables you to make the biggest possible impact in the most relevant way.

We didn’t partner with Dale Jr. to reach the largest number of people; we aligned with him to reach the right kind of people: the most loyal, passionate and avid fans.

IEG SR: What trends do you see regarding sponsorship in the energy drink category?

Filiberto: It’s all about forging a connection with the consumer. You have to give credit to consumers; they are involved in a lot of cool, interesting things and there is a lot of opportunity to connect with things that resonate with people.

For us, it’s not about picking up everything we can, but picking up key partnerships that are going to resonate and make a big impact with our target audience.

That was our thinking with Dale Jr. We did not just pick any driver, we picked the driver. Same with Talladega. For many people, it represents the best motorsports experience.

We’re not looking to drop any relationships, and we are not in a major sponsorship acquisition mode, but at the same time we are moving in that direction. This year we will announce another big sponsorship that we are excited about.

IEG SR: Where does sponsorship fit in AMP’s marketing mix?

Filiberto: Sponsorship plays a major role for. Our relationship with Dale Jr. was our first major foray, and it has been fantastic.

Overnight, we flipped a switch with Dale Jr. fans. NASCAR has more than 75 million fans, and he is the most popular driver. Through our association with Dale, we can automatically tap into that incredible and passionate fan base. NASCAR fans support sponsors more than any other sport out there, and we were able to make a connection that immediately helped us.

We try to stay true and authentic to Dale and his fans, and not do anything too hokey. We are incredibly lucky, because AMP Energy really is part of his life. I went to meet him to gain an understanding of the kinds of things he wanted to do, and make an effort at collaborating. He has been fantastic, and it’s great to include him in the creative process. He is a creative guy, he understands his fans, and he has principles that line up with what we are all about.

We tried to get an understanding of how he consumes AMP Energy, and that generated a ton of ideas about how we could bring the partnership to life.

We try to bring fans closer to Dale. Our brand positioning is all about dialing fans into the thrill of anticipation. The moment before the big event is often the best part of the whole event, when your mind is racing, your heart is pumping, and you are thinking about the great time you are going to have. That is the best kind of energy, and that is what AMP epitomizes. We try to connect fans to Dale through that lens and bring that positioning to life.

IEG SR: Specifically, how do you activate the partnership to accomplish that?

Filiberto: It’s about the momentum before the green flag, as opposed to a moment in the race.

For example, we have an ad campaign, which we will be expanding this year, that captures Dale in those moments before the green flag drops. The ad ends with a voiceover: “Gentlemen, start your engines.” Normally, that’s where an ad would begin.

Beyond the ad, we are going deeper into that space, the moment before the moment and we are doing it across multiple platforms.

This past season we brought the Zac Brown Band to the AMP Energy 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, which is the unofficial home to Dale Jr. Nation. We threw a concert for more than 25,000 people on Halloween night before the race.

Before the band came on, Dale rallied the entire crowd around a massive toast, where we handed out more than 25,000 cans of AMP Energy. The field was lit up with AMP green as far as you could see, and the energy was fantastic. He fired them up about a great concert, a great weekend, and a great race the following day. It was a really special moment.

IEG SR: What new activations are planned for this year?

Filiberto: Going into Daytona, there is no bigger story than how Dale Jr. prepared for the season. It’s clearly an important season for him: He holds himself to high standards and his fans do too. Everyone is excited about how he will approach the new year.

To leverage that excitement, AMP products will include a DVD that gives a peak under the tent of how Dale prepares for a race. It will be exclusive content that can’t be found anywhere else. We’re excited about that.

We are also going to launch some great AMP brand extensions this year, and we will have those come to life in some cool paint schemes early in the season.

IEG SR: AMP earlier this year partnered with Burton Snowboards and also has relationships with athletes in the sport. What does snowboarding bring to the marketing table?

Filiberto: Snowboarding is an important platform for us. The sport has a unique fan base. They are high energy, passionate and embrace snowboarding as more than just a sport, but a lifestyle. Our sponsorships and endorsements allow us to connect with those fans in a way that really speaks to them.

IEG SR: How do you activate the snowboarding platform?

Filiberto: At Burton events, we’re out there sampling and bringing fans closer to athletes. We try to provide access that fans might not otherwise get. We do that on mountains, as well as retail, where fans can win once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as the opportunity to meet and spend some time with an athlete.

We also put coolers in Burton shops, where we can get product into the hands of AMP’s core consumer in a genuine way. We allow the stores to customize the refrigerators so they have their own look.

IEG SR: How is AMP’s “moment before the moment” positioning promoted through snowboarding?

Filiberto: One example is our TV spot with Hannah Teeter, who is at the top of a mountain. You’re in her head, you hear her breathing, she’s looking down the face of the mountain, and the ad ends before she drops down. The message is there’s a moment before every moment, and you have to AMP up.

Editor’s Note: For a detailed look at current sponsorships, objectives and decision-makers of the most active energy drink brands, including AMP Energy, see Energy Drink Sponsorships Still Fueling Targeted Properties.