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Sparkling Ice Unveils First Kevin Durant Campaign

Advertising Age, November 05, 2014

By Max Willens

As Sparkling Ice ramps up its national advertising presence, it is relying on basketball star Kevin Durant to attract young men – and their moms – to the brand.

Sparking Ice, a sparkling flavored water and lemonade brand owned by Talking Rain, is rolling out "The Bold and the Best" in digital and outdoor media, with plans for additional ads during the NBA All-Star Weekend in February.

The campaign will run on and Bleacher Report this month, in addition to billboard placements in markets of personal significance to Mr. Durant: his hometown of Seat Pleasant, Md., his college town of Austin, Tex., and the site of his current NBA team, Oklahoma City, Okla. Seattle-based agency jimwalkerseattle handled the campaign.

Sparkling Ice has been growing rapidly the past five years, going from $2.9 million in sales in 2009 to more than $350 million in sales in 2013, according to the company. It is projecting sales of more than $500 million for this year.

Despite its rapid growth, most of the company's advertising has been limited to trade publications. When Sparkling Ice's partnership with Mr. Durant was announced earlier this year, it was regarded as a coup for a brand that had just begun spending money on national advertising efforts. Last year it spent $5.8 million on measured media, according to Kantar Media.

Back in April, Mr. Durant's representatives at Roc Nation reached out to Talking Rain about a possible partnership. Mr. Durant, the reigning MVP of the National Basketball Association, began drinking the beverage in Oklahoma City, and he asked Roc Nation to pursue an official partnership.

Mr. Durant's on-court performance for the Oklahoma City Thunder has turned him into a much-demanded pitchman. He recently signed a new contract with Nike that could be worth as much as $300 million, and he has appeared in national campaigns for brands including Sprint, Foot Locker and Gatorade.

Nina Morrison, Talking Rain's VP of community and customer relations, said Mr. Durant appeals not only to young, basketball-obsessed men but also to their moms.

Ironically, the one place where Mr. Durant might not be well received as a spokesman is Talking Rain's backyard. The company is based in Preston, Wash. For the first two years of his career, Mr. Durant played in Seattle for the Supersonics before team owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City and christened them the Thunder.

Many Seattle fans have conflicted feelings about Mr. Durant and the Thunder.

"It would be better if he didn't have the Seattle connection," said Jim Andrews, a vice president at the sponsorship consultancy IEG. "But the positives outweigh the negatives, if we get any."