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(Aug. 6, 2001) VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Reebok's new Fitness Water has begun a summer awareness push in select markets, while the brand continues expansion into new U.S. states as it targets a national roll-out.

Seven major U.S. cities including New York, Boston and Seattle will see extensive sampling until Labor Day at an array of venues, including Reebok-sponsored events, sports events, retail outlets and major grocery chains.

"We really have taken a considered approach to do it [marketing] in a strategic and smart way," said Jonathan Cronin, vice president of marketing at Clearly Canadian Beverage Corp., which holds the license to produce Fitness Water. "Right now the focus is to build distribution in those markets. We want to be able to deliver."

Handling the sampling and brand awareness effort is Infinity Promotions Group, Seattle.

There's no advertising yet for Fitness Water, although the product has appeared with limited exposure in ads for Reebok's walking shoes.

Enhanced with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, the new Fitness Water is at the forefront of what Reebok and Vancouver-based Clearly Canadian hope will quickly become a new beverage category: enhanced water.

"Being first and doing it properly are the two biggest factors for success in any new category," Mr. Cronin said. "A big part of that is the Reebok brand name -- that gives us positioning and image strength. It's definitely a competitive advantage."

Already on the shelves in Birmingham, New York, Boston, Seattle, Portland, St. Louis and Phoenix, Reebok Fitness Water continues expanding into other U.S. markets, with Northern California next on the list for mid-August.

A full-scale national rollout is targeted for the first quarter next year.

Backing the U.S.-wide launch will be a national advertising push, Mr. Cronin said, headed by Palmer Jarvis DDB and its Karacters Design Group. Both shops are in Vancouver.

Fitness Water's flavors -- there's berry and citrus in addition to unflavored "natural" -- have seen strong positive reaction, said Mr.Cronin, who claimed the product has surprised consumers who have a "water is water" expectation.

Clearly Canadian's deal with Reebok has the new water initially slated for the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, but if it's successful it could go further afield than merely those countries.

"Reebok's interest in this is exceptionally strong," Mr. Cronin said. "They've expressed an interest in making this as big as it can be." -- Stephen Barrington

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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