In a new endorsement deal, Ariana Grande will try to do for bottled water what Diet Coke and Pepsi endorsers Taylor Swift and Beyonce are doing for soda: Give it some pop.
The rising singing star will be the face of a new campaign for a small but growing functional water brand called Wat-aah! that targets kids.
"We've aimed to make water cool and exciting to kids," said Rose Cameron, a former ad agency employee who founded the brand in 2008. Music, she said, is a "big component of that," adding that "what works for Coke and Pepsi I believed could also work for water."
The campaign, expected to launch next year, will include outdoor, print and digital ads in teen and lifestyle publications. The agency is Berlin Cameron United. Ewen Cameron, the agency's chairman, is Ms. Cameron's husband.
Ms. Grande has taken an undisclosed ownership stake in the brand and will serve as creative and strategic adviser, Ms. Cameron said. She has also agreed to talk about the brand on social media, where the brand hopes to gain the attention of what Ms. Cameron estimated to be her nearly 60 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
"I love drinking water and I want to inspire my fans to do the same. Now as a partner in the company, I am excited to share Wat-aah! with everyone," Ms. Grande said in a statement.
The brand is seeking to grab share from sodas and other sugary drinks with a health appeal that promises "no sugar, no calories, no bad stuff." The marketing strategy is fueled by kid-friendly, colorful branding.
The logo design depicts a cartoonish boy screaming, "Drink WAT-AAH!." Bottles are sold in varieties such as "Power," which includes magnesium; "Brain," which has electrolytes; and "Energy," which is marketed as having "energizing oxygen." A newer sparkling line includes flavors such as "Tango," which the brand says contains "natural grapefruit essence."
Ms. Cameron is a native of the Philippines whose agency career included doing consumer and marketing research at DDB Needham. She said the idea for Wat-aah! was sparked by a mealtime conversation with her two young sons. When she asked them why they were drinking soda, "they said because water is boring," she recalled.
"You look at the water aisle in the grocery store and there is not one water brand truly speaking to kids and there is a huge opportunity and a huge void," she said.
Wat-aah! is starting to fill that gap: Last year the brand reached $14.9 million in sales accounting for 10 million bottles, and it is projecting a 91% increase in sales volume this year, according to internal statistics shared with Ad Age.
Distribution at schools accounts for 58% of sales. But the brand is also winning shelf space at grocery chains including Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Kroger-owned outlets such as Fred Meyer and Ralph's, as well as Harris Teeter and other regional chains.
While adult water brands go to great lengths to describe their water source, "kids really do not care where the water is from," Ms. Cameron said. "All they love is the packaging, the colors, the marketing behind it." And, she said, "parents and teenagers and kids are more conscious now [about] what they put in their bodies."
Case in point: Though Ms. Swift and Beyonce's appearances in ads for Diet Coke and Pepsi, respectively, have won attention, the brands remain in a slump afflicting the larger soda industry.
But while consumer trends might be in her favor, Ms. Cameron is keeping realistic goals. "Am I taking on Coke and Pepsi? Oh goodness, no. They have billions of dollars [and] huge distribution. What I am trying to do is give water a boost," she said. "It's a very simple idea."