Drive with Dale Earnhardt Jr. In Mountain Dew’s New NASCAR VR Experience

Using the Unreal game engine and Oculus Rift, the brand wants you to pick a flavor to race with.

Virtual reality is still very much in its infancy. And a lot of what we talk about when we talk about VR is actually just 360 video–still neat and visually immersive, but ultimately something you can experience with a smartphone and some cardboard. Most of America has yet to invest in their own Oculus Rift headsets, which means brands investing heavily in the form are primarily building content with phones and cardboard in mind.


But the future of VR isn’t the present, and carving out that space is going to involve finding ways to innovate that make room for the technology that exists in everybody’s pocket right now with the technology that’s harder to come by.

Mountain Dew is taking a pretty cool step in that direction with the newest part of its DEWcision campaign. Launched last month, the campaign gives people the chance to keep a limited flavor on store shelves during this presidential election season. Now you can vote for either Baja Blast or Pitch Black through a NASCAR-themed VR experience, built for the latest version of Oculus Rift by digital agency Firstborn using the Unreal gaming engine.

Where most 360 video experiences are pre-rendered (usually using cameras to capture the real world), these new spots are fully interactive. The campaign, which puts you in the driver’s seat of a NASCAR race car next to stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, or Chase Elliott, and–if you’re using an Oculus Rift device and hands-on with the steering wheel of the virtual car–actually gives you the chance to drive, and pick your own favorite course. On a Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard-based platform, viewers get a similar, albeit less interactive, 360 video experience.

The brand also partnered with Shazam, who will be launching a VR player, with Dew supplying the app’s first-ever VR content. Users will also be able to scan a bottle of Baja or Pitch Black Dew with their phone to unlock short-form Dew VR content.

As brands are looking for ways to get more out of VR than simple novelty–a novelty that’s likely to wear off as users realize there’s not much interaction to the immersion–we’re likely to see more multi-layered and multi-purposed approaches to brand VR content like this.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.