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This 11-person coffee company won a $5 million Super Bowl commercial slot


Facebook / Death Wish Coffee

You know the feeling of unexpectedly finding $5 in your pocket? New York-based Death Wish Coffee knows that feeling times a million.

That’s because Death Wish Coffee, which has just 11 employees and sells nearly all of its coffee online, hit the marketing equivalent of the Powerball back in November: The company won a free 30-second commercial slot during the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl on CBS.

Those spots are going for around $5 million this year, or the rough equivalent of the coffee company’s total revenue for 2015, owner Mike Brown told Re/code.

The commercial isn’t actually free, of course. Someone is paying for it, just not Death Wish Coffee. That someone is Intuit, which sells a bunch of small-business software and services and gave away the airtime as part of a small-business competition.

Death Wish was one of 15,000 business to apply (because why not? said Brown) and ended up beating out nine other finalists in an online vote thanks to some old fashioned pavement pounding at local events and a few well-placed celebrity endorsements. (Brown said the company called in favors from stars of shows such as "Ice Road Truckers" and "Deadliest Catch.")

It appears the effort was worth it. The commercial, which was created by the RPA ad agency in Santa Monica, Calif., was uploaded to YouTube last Thursday and has generated almost 1.7 million views since. Brown said that orders in that time are up 22 times their normal volume.

So what happens when the commercial actually runs in front of a Super Bowl-sized audience? Death Wish is getting ready, having learned from its 15 minutes of fame back in 2013. Death Wish Coffee was featured on Good Morning America, oversold its coffee thanks to the added publicity, had to refund orders and was temporarily pulled from Amazon.

"It almost buried us," recalled Brown. "That was a big deal. Our No.1 priority was getting back on Amazon."

This time, Brown hired two more full-time staffers in preparation for the Super Bowl ad, and contracted two additional local coffee roasters that are already roasting 20 hours per day.

"We’re getting ready for big sales," he said. "I’m real happy with how our site’s been handling it. We just had the most people ever on our site [at one time] the other day. It’s actually been way too smooth."

If you’re into spoilers, here’s a look at the commercial the company is airing Sunday afternoon.

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