SBJ/September 24-30, 2012/Franchises

Rams call audible, create bottled water brand

Unable to come to terms with incumbent beverage rights holder Pepsi on the value of the burgeoning bottled water category, the St. Louis Rams are digging their own well.

The team is licensing Chesterfield, Mo., water distributor AquaSky to produce bottled water with Rams branding. The water will be called Thirst & Ten and will be sold in 16.9-ounce plastic bottles bearing the Rams’ colors and logo and the team’s URL.

The Rams have licensed St. Louis-area water distributor AquaSky to produce Thirst & Ten water with the team’s branding on it.
Thirst & Ten will be rolled out this Sunday when the Rams host Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome. It will sell for $5 a bottle, 50 cents less than what Pepsi’s Aquafina water sold for last season.

Pepsi had held the Rams’ water rights since 2007 and renewed recently for soft drinks, but the Rams carved out water as something they wanted to own.

“Dynamics in the water category have changed with consumer tastes. You’ve got increased purchase without a lot of margins for big beverage companies, so they don’t give water much marketing support, which we will,” said Rams CMO Bob Reif. “We believe this is a model a lot of teams will want to look at.”

Neither Reif nor AquaSky would discuss revenue specifics of the deal, believed to be one of the first times an NFL team has licensed its intellectual property within the beverage category.

Given the unique nature of the deal; ongoing concern at NFL headquarters regarding how team IP is used on consumer products; ramifications for other teams; and the fact that Pepsi and Gatorade are two of the largest NFL leaguewide sponsors, Thirst & Ten was highly scrutinized by league attorneys.

Outside the Rams’ home stadium, the water will be available at the team’s Continuity X-sponsored practice facility. The Rams also hope to push it into some of their retail sponsors, which include Schnucks supermarkets and Mobil On the Run convenience stores.

Since it is a local NFL team deal, the water can only be sold within a 75-mile radius of St. Louis.

As the Rams’ official water, the deal gets AquaSky IP and pouring rights, along with stadium LED and static signage.

In addition to stadium sales, the Rams plan to promote the water brand at team events, including press conferences and other team-controlled functions. However, Gatorade’s massive leaguewide contract will keep Thirst & Ten off the sidelines during game days.

“It’s a fairly standard sponsorship in a fairly unusual category,” said Ryan Cliffe, the Rams’ manager of corporate sales and support, who put the deal together.

Like AquaSky’s main brand of water, Rayn, Thirst & Ten will be marketed as “bottled rainwater,” collected from the sky. AquaSky also sells an H2Orange water brand in Texas that plays on University of Texas affinities but is unlicensed.

“We think this a great opportunity to tie our water with a sports brand everyone knows and is a deal that is unique enough to get us into new retailers,” said Todd Hesker, AquaSky president and founder.

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