Crystal Light's Fight for Water

Making a Splash to Raise Awareness for U.S. Freshwater Sustainability

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Noelle Perillo
Noelle Perillo
Water has become more top of mind recently due to natural disasters such as the flooding in Nashville and New England and manmade disasters such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But there is another key reason for all Americans to start paying more attention to rivers and lakes right here in the U.S.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, by 2015, roughly half of U.S. states may face water shortages. With half of all Americans receiving their drinking water from surface water sources such as rivers and lakes, the Kraft Foods Crystal Light brand team and its public relations partner, Ketchum, knew it had found the perfect cause. After all, water is at the core of Crystal Light, as the brand focuses on helping women drink more water every day.

Credible partnership and simple call to action

Working closely with Crystal Light, Ketchum identified a relevant, credible nonprofit partner to help bring the program to life: The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect land and water.

The resulting campaign had a simple, attainable call to action for our target consumer: Purchase Crystal Light powdered drink mix on March 22, 2010, World Water Day, and all proceeds would be given to the Conservancy (no less than $350,000 and up to $750,000). The funds were earmarked to help support five of the Conservancy's priority river and lake projects, which help sustain both life and livelihood along some of America's most celebrated bodies of water. Specific concerns were:

  • Rapid population growth in the intermountain West has negatively impacted the Colorado River.
  • Climate change, water development and use have affected the Great Lakes Basin, which holds one-fifth of the fresh surface water on Earth.
  • Excessive use has threatened the Meramec River, part of the Mississippi River waterway in Missouri, which is home to fish, birds and other wildlife.
  • Land use change has impacted the Potomac River, which provides drinking water to 4.3 million people on the mid-Atlantic coast.
  • Recent droughts and increasing water demands threaten southern rivers, spanning all 15 southern states.

Activation with celebrity endorsement

A multifaceted, integrated marketing program came to life with the Conservancy's freshwater work at the core and World Water Day as our key moment in time. In addition to the Crystal Light brand team and Ketchum, the integrated team—which included KraftOne, McGarryBowen and Razorfish—brought our best ideas to the table to raise awareness of the program and activate our target consumer. The results were incredible—and incredibly gratifying—as we brought attention to this important issue.

Print ads prior to and on World Water Day in weeklies and USA Today raised awareness of the issue and the program. A Yahoo ad takeover on March 22 helped cement our commitment. We engageded Facebook and Twitter earlier in the month to gain fans/followers and to leverage these platforms.

Wanting our voice to be louder and reach our target audience through the celebrity media we know our audience consumes, we teamed up with longtime environmental supporter Sheryl Crow, a natural spokeswoman already focused on our cause. Crystal Light threw a one-night-only, exclusive World Water Day concert with Crow in New York. With a full red-carpet event, media interviews with Crow and a VIP reception, the concert built buzz and directly supported the freshwater conservation work, with 100% of the ticket price going to the Conservancy.

Consumer reach

Ketchum secured media coverage for the event, including in The New York Times and New York Daily News. Crow appeared on NBC's "Today," E! Entertainment News, radio's "The Billy Bush Show," in Us Weekly magazine and many other entertainment outlets. Additional media placements for the campaign on numerous broadcast, print and online outlets generated more than 362.6 million media impressions to date, ceeding our goal by 60%.

We also made waves using the Crystal Light Facebook and Twitter platforms. On World Water Day alone, the Crystal Light Facebook page had more than 113,800 page views and added more than 3,000 new fans. #WorldWaterDay was the third-most-popular Twitter Trending Topic on the big day and sixth most popular for the week.

While Crystal Light is still tallying the sales results, one thing is clear: We reached our target consumer with a cause that fit the brand and built in realistic consumer action. Together, Crystal Light and the Nature Conservancy brought the U.S. freshwater issue to the forefront and will help ensure safe, clean drinking water in the future.

Noelle Perillo is a VP in Ketchum's Washington, D.C., office, Consumer Health & Wellness practice.

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