Music Business Follows Health Trend With New Beverage Partnerships

OMG Girlz, a teenage R&B/hip-hop group who are spokespeople and equity partners in the kid-targeted Wat-AAH! premium water. 

(Photo: Hannibal Matthews/WAT-AAH!)

Just as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have become the respective new faces of Pepsi and Diet Coke, a new, healthier trend has emerged  with music and beverages. Artists and music executives are becoming the faces and equity partners in a series of new bottled water and healthy beverages, to both align their names with a growing segment and distance themselves from the mounting controversy associated with soda endorsements.

Last week, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mark Wahlberg announced an investment in premium water AQUAhydrate to help boost its distribution at retail and make the product a go-to for fit, active party people. This week, kid-targeted Wat-AAH! is debuting a campaign with new spokespeople (and equity partners) the OMG Girlz, a teenage R&B/hip-hop girl group managed by music industry veteran Michael Mauldin (a former senior executive at Columbia and So So Def). March also sees the Southern California debut of Pop Water, a new flavored, low-calorie water backed by Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter, with plans for a broader rollout later this year.

And this summer, music veteran/-entrepreneur Kevin Liles will introduce GoInside, a bottled tea product to be distributed exclusively in more than 8,000 Walgreens stores. The product is geared toward “empowering icons to leverage their cultural relevance and brand equity within the beverage industry and packaged goods,” according to a company representative, which Liles suggests may materialize itself in personalities like one of his 15 management clients (Nelly, Big Sean, Trey Songz and Estelle among them).

Music’s emergence at the center of this healthy-beverage craze had its highest-profile advocate with rapper 50 Cent, who made upwards of $100 million for his minority stake in vitaminwater when it was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007. Then in spring 2011, Beyoncé made headlines when she joined first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and filmed an athletic music video for a reworked version of her 2006 hit “Get Me Bodied,” retitled “Move Your Body.” The viral clip was sponsored in part by Wat-AAH!, a premium bottled water marketed to kids founded in 2008 that aligned with Let’s Move to encourage more water consumption among schoolchildren. And in many ways, having Beyoncé become the face of the movement was a major breakthrough for Wat-AAH! founder/CEO Rose Cameron.

 

The partnership between Let’s Move and Beyoncé was renewed through 2012, but came to a rather abrupt standstill when the singer announced in December that she was realigning with Pepsi as part of a creative fund and media campaign valued at $50 million that would make her the global face of the soda. Though Beyoncé got a much-buzzed-about Super Bowl halftime performance out of the partnership and a forthcoming global commercial, a significant amount of media backlash quickly followed—particularly a widely read New York Times column headlined “Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. to Sell Soda?

And with soft drink sales facing year-over-year declines since 2005, there’s more opportunity for healthier alternatives to steal market share. Bottled water sales grew 4%-5% last year to U.S. revenue of $14 billion, while bottled teas grew 4%-5% to $6.3 billion—mere fractions of the $76 billion that carbonated sodas banked in 2012, according to Beverage Digest, but still room for growth. 

 

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