Pepsi Partners With Starbucks Water Brand

Also Teams With Matt Damon's Group to Push Charitable Message Behind Ethos

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NEW YORK ( -- Drink bottled water. Make a difference.
Ethos ad

Pepsi is partnering in its Ethos mission with Matt Damon's group, H2O Africa.

That's the theme behind a campaign for the widespread launch of Ethos, the brand that up until now has been available only in 7,000 Starbucks locations. In a partnership with Pepsi-Cola North America, the brand is being rolled out to 40,000 mass merchandisers as well as convenience, supermarkets and drugstores in a push that will benefit water-stressed countries. For each bottle of Ethos sold, 5 cents is contributed to the Ethos Water Fund; the brand's goal is a donation of $10 million by 2010.

H2O Africa
And that led Pepsi to a natural spokesman: actor Matt Damon. The company is partnering in its Ethos mission with Mr. Damon's group, H2O Africa, which aims to bring clean water to the continent. H2O Africa was born out of a documentary project titled "Running the Sahara," which makes its debut this spring.

Both groups' missions dovetail with the company's broader corporate vision, said Ahad Afridi, VP-waters at Pepsi-Cola North America. In January, PepsiCo pledged $8.5 million to drive sustainable water practices.

The campaign will be the first for the bottled-water brand, which is owned by Starbucks but is packaged, distributed and marketed by Pepsi-Cola as part of the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between the beverage giant and the coffee chain.

The ads, which were created by BBDO Worldwide, will run in April and May issues of magazines, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, GQ, Sports Illustrated and O, the Oprah Magazine. Because of the nature of the brand, Mr. Afridi said a print campaign made more sense than a splashy TV effort. "We ruled out a lot of different celebrities that we could have used," Mr. Afridi said, of the company's choice of Mr. Damon. "The other thing that's important here: This is a brand that would not be right to scream about. We have a nice print campaign and a good partnership in place. We want to let the brand speak for itself."

The ad shows Mr. Damon with some young children and reads: "Over 1 billion people around the world lack clean water. ... Every time you buy a bottle of Ethos, money goes to help provide children with the access to clean water they need. So if you choose to drink bottled water, please choose to make a difference."

Bottled water sales
The massive rollout comes as bottled water is gaining traction with U.S. consumers who are favoring better-for-you options. According to Beverage Marketing Corp., wholesale sales of bottled water have more than doubled since 2001, although Beverage Digest reports that retail sales of bottled water (excluding vending machines and Wal-Mart) grew only 9% in 2007 compared with 16% in 2006.

Mr. Afridi said the company has been strengthening the brand for a national launch behind the scenes for some time. Key to that was designing a new bottle. The design agency IDO was brought on to handle that project and the result is a simple shape with clean lines and little messaging. "It's got a very new, distinct look to it," he said. "We wanted to achieve the right balance between being true to the cause and the mission of Ethos, as well as giving it a premium look."

The bottle will be available in three sizes, a 700-milliliter version that is exclusive to Starbucks, as well as a 500 milliliter and 1 liter size for the mass market. Ethos will be positioned as premium to Pepsi's Aquafina brand and compete with Fiji, Evian and Voss, Mr. Afridi said.
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