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Tiny Company, Strong Coffee, Huge Ad

Lucas Willard

Up until recently, if you weren't a coffee fanatic, you may not have heard about Death Wish Coffee. But if you're among the many millions watching the Super Bowl this weekend, you will.

The 30-second ad featuring a crew of surly Vikings is the grand prize of the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Big Game.

In the week before the big commercial, the workers at the Round Lake office were much busier than usual due to the buzz around the ad as the Vikings prepare to join the Clydesdales, the Pets.com sock puppet and GoDaddy in Super Bowl lore.

Death Wish Coffee's Kane Grogan said there's been a huge bump in business for the company that boasts it roasts the world's strongest coffee. 

"Yeah, so much. It's insane."

On Thursday afternoon, a few of the Death Wish crew were already out in the San Francisco area preparing for the game.

"They saw the Super Bowl trophy, they met, like, Jerry Rice and a bunch of the ESPN guys, they're doin' it. They got a Death Wish food truck, they got like a Death Wish wrappred truck, they've been having Vikings serve coffee out of it, so we had, like, lines of hundreds of people trying to get a cup of coffee, so that's cool."

It's exciting stuff for the company that only employs 12 workers. Death Wish says it's the smallest company to ever have a Super Bowl ad. The advertising slot normally carries a price tag of $5 million.

For the competition, Death Wish submitted its own short film pitching the business.

"We found the strongest, most powerful beans from around the world. Then, we perfected our roasting process," said company founder Mike Brown, in the original pitch.

During the voting period, Death Wish beat thousands of other companies.

"It was 15,000 companies,” Grogan said. “They whittled it down to 10. Then it was like 'Oh, we have an actual chance of winning this thing!'"

Kane says the Super Bowl ad was produced in England and was handled by Intuit. But Death Wish got to pick the Viking concept.

Even with the hype surrounding the ad before it airs, Kane has no idea what's next. He's still kind of in disbelief.

"We're going to the Super Bowl," laughed Kane. "I can't even...even saying that is hilarious."

Super Bowl 50 airs this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on CBS.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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