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Death Wish Coffee’s Journey to the Super Bowl

A year ago, Death Wish Coffee was a six-person operation–a small company in upstate New York, quietly turning out batches of high caffeine-content coffee for a legion of faithful customers. Now, their staff has doubled, and their high-octane product is about to become a household name.

They won the Intuit Quickbooks Small Business Big Game competition, in no small part due to their rabidly devoted fan base. The prize? A commercial in Super Bowl 50.

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When we heard the Death Wish guys were going to be in Santa Clara (which happens to be the home of Sweatpants & Coffee) for the big game, we couldn’t miss the chance to meet up with them. If nothing else, we needed to thank them for creating the “fiercely caffeinated” brew that is Death Wish and to congratulate them on their win.

The idea behind the Intuit Quickbooks commercial giveaway is that small businesses drive the economy (true) and as such, they should be celebrated and heard. And how better to give a small business a voice than to put them on TV during the Super Bowl? Every year, millions of Americans, tune in to the most televised sporting event in the country, not just to find out who will be the football champion but to see the clever, inventive commercials. Big brands shell out mega-bucks for these spots, knowing that they’ll be reaching a potential 121 million consumer eyeballs. Small businesses simply cannot compete on this playing field, but Intuit’s idea to purchase 30 seconds of advertising time during the Super Bowl and then give it away to a small business is a game-changer.

Businesses primarily owned and operated in the U.S. having 50 or fewer employees were eligible to participate. Voting ran from Sept. 2 to Nov. 3 for the top ten candidates. Fans had to vote every day to keep their choice in the running, and Death Wish fans are particularly hardcore. You would expect nothing less from devotees of the world’s strongest coffee, but still.

This is what happened when Mike Brown, founder of Death Wish Coffee, found out his team had won:

Did you get a little choked up watching that? Yeah, so did we. Sweatpants & Coffee is all about following your dreams and transformative journeys, so when you put that together with great coffee, we can barely handle it.

What’s it been like? “Well,” says John Swedish, production manager, “we probably need to apologize to our families, because we’re never going to see them again.” Brown adds, “It’s just been a whirlwind. Everything is happening so fast and its all so unreal. It’s been unbelievable.” Until now, Death Wish Coffee has only been available online, but soon, you’ll be seeing it on store shelves. For us caffeine-based life-forms, this is a public service.

This week, during the pre-Super Bowl festivities, a Death Wish truck complete with Vikings has been making the rounds in San Francisco. Swedish joked that maybe they should’ve been tossing bags to coffee to kids, like Santa in a parade. We pointed out that tired moms would benefit more. “Now, that’s an idea!”

And coffee isn’t all they do. Death Wish works with family-owned stoneware-maker Deneen Pottery to offer high-quality coffee mugs…well, tankards are probably a better description, considering the amount of liquid these bad boys hold.

More recently, they’ve branched out into coffee-infused beer with Death Wish IPA, as well as a Death Wish Vodka from Albany Distilling Company. Listening to Swedish describe the production process for Death Wish’s coffee vodka may have caused us to swoon with desire. Because coffee. And vodka. “We actually used coffee beans for hopping,” he says. Hopping, in case you’re wondering, is not jumping up and down while you hold the bottle. It’s a process by which the spirit is strained through hops, or in this case, coffee beans, thereby absorbing the flavor.

Loving the way this project turned out. Coming soon. #Vodka #Coffee @albanydistillingco @saratogabrewing

A photo posted by Death Wish Coffee Company (@deathwishcoffee) on

Not only do people collect Death Wish merch, they also form fan groups dedicated to the Death Wish brand, a fact that surprises and delights Brown and Swedish. This brand inspires almost cult-like worship. They’re meme’d.

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Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

Watch Death Wish Coffee’s Super Bowl 50 commercial:

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About Nanea Hoffman (284 Articles)
Nanea Hoffman is the founder of Sweatpants & Coffee. She writes, she makes things, and she drinks an inordinate amount of coffee. She is also extremely fond of sweatpants. She believes in love, peace, joy, comfort, and caffeinated beverages.

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