If you’ve been living under a rock for the last two months you probably stepped back into the glaring sunlight and wondered: “Ozone?  What’s that – another name for the next generation console?”  Of course, if you’ve been watching the chatter in the gaming community (and in other circles too) you may realise that – while Ozone is the name of an energy drink – they’re also keen to “support and sponsor esports”.  Ah.  Now you’re listening…

Let’s start with a brief history lesson.  The Ozone Energy Drink brand has been in production since 2006 and is available in 28 countries across five continents.  The holding company – which is based in Europe – was established in 1992 and is also the manufacturer of Smirnoff Ice for Diageo and Mountain Dew for Pepsi and currently distribute the staggering number of over 250 million cans of drinks per year.

Four South African entrepreneurs (Wickus, Christian, James and Johan) have decided it is time to bring the product to  what they themselves admit is a “saturated” energy drink market.  How do they intend to penetrate said saturated market?  According to Ozone: “Innovative marketing strategies and out of the box advertising methods” along with a “highly competitive price”.

These marketing strategies include – but are not restricted to – the previously mentioned esports.  Or for those wanting it spelt out – gaming on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.  And whatever comes in the future.  This strategy was first instigated by Wickus from Ozone via a rather simple emailed request to the undead here at Zombiegamer requesting “a clan to sponsor”.  What became a simple request snowballed into a desire to expand well beyond the confines of a simple clan sponsorship.

It would be easy to view this as a cheap marketing tactic – companies targeting a market they know nothing about rarely achieve anything concrete in said market, but of the four partners in Ozone two are gamers from days gone by.  Wickus specifically has played with War Geeks and has even dabbled in organising LANs while working for a resort in the Drakensberg.  His experiences from those days made him aware of the lack of sponsor support for the perceived “grassroots” of gaming.  Combine this with experience in hospitality, marketing and events management and you have a formidable team.  A team that decided early on not to use the international strapline associated with Ozone but come up with a new one aimed at supporting their unique approach – and so ‘Breaking Barriers’ was born.

Their effort to rectify the lack of sponsored support for gaming has started with a clan tier system allowing clans of all abilities and platforms to potentially receive sponsorship (to be fair, you can’t all expect to receive sponsorship, but the chance is there).  The first clan to be announced was Xbox 360 clan High 5, and the first PlayStation 3 and PC clan has been confirmed as being announced at upcoming 2upGamers events.   Various events and organisations within the industry are also being considered for sponsorship and “partnership” – the first of these we can exclusively reveal is 4 elements Gaming Festivals founded by Glenn Alexander .  This partnership will mean that 4.eGF will become Ozone SA’s event management company and Ozone will be available at 2upGamers events for attendees.

Ozone will also be the main sponsors of the much spoken about Paintball event being dubbed the “Console Wars” [check out #PS3vs360PB on Twitter and here for future details] which will be a family day out to bring the friendly rivalry between the South African Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 forums from the virtual to real world.  Ozone will also be in attendance (with product in tow) at the Diablo 3 launch being hosted by Mweb GameZone on 15 May.

For gamers, their future plans are grand, but some need to remain under wraps for now.  We can say that the term ‘O-Zone’ is being used for all esports related things and that once a suitable premises has been found a permanent ‘O-Zone Playground’ will be established.  What exactly that will entail is again being kept a secret but it will involve both virtual and real world toys in a permanent space for gamers and others to enjoy.  We’ll keep a seat warm for you.  Promise…

Outside of the gaming sector, Ozone are active with a variety of sports and upcoming events.  Recently, Ozone SA sponsored a two man team for the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa triathlon and will also support The Bellville Peninsula Cricket Academy.  In August, they will be at The Cape Homemakers Expo and plan to show their support for gaming there too by having consoles on their stand.  Many more events and activities are still to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

If you’re worried that all this appears to be focused in the Western Cape – fear not.  The team is planning – and will support – events nationwide.  The Paintball event will be rotated between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in the future.  LANs, events, clans and other activities of interest (including extreme and non-extreme sports) will “get love” from Ozone.  We’re also pretty sure they’ll be making their way to rAge this year.

All of this and the product is only due to hit retail shelves in South Africa around the end of May/early June.  Exciting times are ahead – both for the guys from Ozone and from a more personal level… for all the hungry thirsty South African gamers out there.

On a side note – and because we know people love winning stuff – Ozone is currently running a number of competitions: a Mother’s Day Competition, a Facebook Competition and a Video Montage Competition.

If you are keen to find out more about Ozone Africa or just want to keep up with their goings on, you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or check out their YouTube channel.

If you are keen to feature in this column in the future, please feel free to contact us at info@zombiegamer.co.za and we’ll think about – after you’ve sent us a sample of your braaaaaaiiiiinnnnsss.