Vitaminwater Looks to Boost Trial, Awareness With Olympics Campaign

'Games, Only Better' Effort Will Run Overseas, Where Brand Is Small But Growing

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Vitaminwater is looking to boost its international presence with its first Summer Olympics campaign.

Dubbed "Games, Only Better," the campaign, which will not run in the U.S., is meant to drive trial and recruitment overseas, as well as raise overall brand awareness levels. The 12-year-old Coca-Cola-owned brand began rolling out overseas just four-and-a-half years ago and is now in 24 markets. Still, just one-fifth of the brand's sales come from outside the U.S.

"Vitaminwater is an iconic brand in the U.S. But overseas it's such a young brand, with pretty low brand awareness," said Eric Lewis, global brand director for Glaceau, which produces Vitaminwater. "With our size, we need an asset like the Olympics to cut through. But we have the same brand vision and architecture in the U.S. and internationally."

"[The Olympics] are a compelling way to introduce ourselves and help people get to know us," added Rana Kardestuncer, global marketing communications director at Glaceau.

The enhanced- or functional-water category is in the early stages of development in many places around the world. Eighty percent of volume is concentrated in four countries: the U.S., China, Japan and Germany, according to Coca-Cola. And many of the competitors are local brands.

As happened in the U.S. more than a decade ago, execs say Vitaminwater is carefully plotting its expansion. It uses an "influencer seeding model" rather than expanding by way of adjacencies, explained Rodolfo Echeverria, VP-global active lifestyle at Coca-Cola.

"We look at cities where there is a high index of creative people, like at ad agencies. We look at, if you were a DJ, where would you go?" said Mr. Lewis. "We want to find culturally relevant cities. And we've stuck to that roadmap."

For example, when Vitaminwater is expanding to a new country, it first launches in a major city like Paris, targeting specific neighborhoods and retailers. It then rolls out to other large, influential cities in the country. Typically it takes about three years before the brand has national distribution.

It's not a "conventional" approach, concedes Mr. Echeverria, but its helped Vitaminwater cultivate a trendsetting consumer base that 's closely connected to culture. Mr. Echeverria declined to discuss the cities and countries Vitaminwater is targeting for expansion.

The Olympics campaign was built around the insight that a certain group of consumers is viewing the London games as a "big party with a sporting event in the middle," said Mr. Lewis.

In keeping with that idea, the Glaceau Tasting Vehicle will be making its way through the streets of London and setting up games such as oversized Jenga and Twister. Jessie J, a popular British singer, was also tapped for the campaign. Her song "Laserlight" is the backdrop for a virtual version of musical chairs at GamesOnlyBetter.com. Players have a chance to win tickets to a Jessie J. concert in London next month.

Outdoor executions feature taglines such as, "Long jump, only better" and "Archery, only better." The former shows a couple jumping into a pristine lake, while the latter shows cupid aiming an arrow over London. Droga5 worked on the campaign.

Vitaminwater execs said they hope the effort will have a major impact on its business in the U.K., given the impact of its Vancouver games' effort in 2010 -- Canada is now the most successful market, by volume and profit, after the U.S.

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