Sports Fans Bully Dr. Pepper Out of $100K

A halftime show technicality cost the company double what it had planned to pay in prize money.

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As a result of a technicality in a completely made-up promotional game and some heavy online nagging from fans, Dr.Pepper was recently forced to shell out double the prize money for its latest marketing stunt, reports Insider.

During the halftime break of the SEC Championship football game on December 3 in which Louisiana State University took on the University of Georgia (and lost), Dr. Pepper held a contest pitting two college students against each other for the chance to win $100,000. In the eyes of audience members, though, both students were winners, and that’s where Dr. Pepper’s woes began.

What is the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway?

The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway has been held annually since 2008 by Keurig Dr. Pepper, the parent company of the soda brand. To be eligible for the grand prize—$100,000 in tuition money—contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 24 and follow a number of steps to make it to the final challenge.

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Per the contest details, contestants must create a profile on drpeppertuition.com in order to answer the question, “How will you change the world?” Next, they must upload a video discussing themselves, their academic and professional goals, and how the prize money would impact their life. From there, Dr. Pepper selects finalists to compete against one another in a game at the halftime show of a College Football Conference Championship football game; winner takes the prize money.

The game itself is simple and has nothing to do with academic achievements or professional goals: Finalists are brought out on the field during the halftime break and made to throw footballs into a big can of Dr. Pepper. More specifically, the official rules state that two finalists will have the chance to throw as many footballs as possible (out of 30) within 30 seconds from the five-yard line into the “Target in the Can Replica located on the near goal line.” The person with the most successful throws wins the grand prize of $100,000 and the runner-up gets $25,000.

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Why did Dr. Pepper give out $200K in prize money?

On December 3, during the SEC Championship game, Reagan Whitaker of Baylor University and Kayla Gibson of the University of St. Augustine were the two finalists competing in Dr. Pepper’s tuition giveaway.

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Insider explains that the two contestants ended multiple rounds of the game in a tie as football fans watched, and there wasn’t time for a tiebreaker round. Logic would dictate, then, that both students were deserving of the grand prize. However, what fans did not witness was the preliminary competition that occurred a day before the game. And per the official rules of the contest, since Whitaker won the “preliminary tie-breaker” during the earlier competition, Whitaker was named the grand prize winner over Gibson. This technicality did not go over well with people who watched the competition unfold on the field—after all, how could they have known about the preliminary face-off?—and so the #JusticeForKayla movement was born on Twitter.

To its credit, Keurig Dr. Pepper company was quick to rectify the injustice. Before the end of the game, CBS reporter Jenny Dell had an update from the soda company.

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“Well, you all saw the unprecedented double tie of the Dr. Pepper halftime tuition giveaway,” said Dell in a live broadcast of the game. “We’ve just been told by Dr Pepper that they’re going to award both finalists $100,000.

All’s well that ends well, right? Although it’s wonderful to know that twice as many contestants will now be able to rid themselves of the burden of student debt, this contest is actually just a big reminder of how heavy student debt weighs on just about everyone. If the contest were simply about giving away something like a free car to one random winner (student or otherwise), then I doubt there would have been as much outcry surrounding the technicalities of this made-up game.