Sponsorship is playing a key role in Sparking ICE’s brand rejuvenation.   

The sparkling water plans to sponsor roughly 200 events this year, more than triple the roughly 60 events it sponsored in 2012.

Recent deals include Stagecoach: California’s Country Music Festival powered by Toyota in Los Angeles; the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party presented by Southern Living; and the AVP Manhattan Beach Open.

The TalkingRain Beverage Co. brand kicked off the sponsorship push in 2012 with its first national partnership: a multiyear tie to the LPGA.

The privately-held company is using sponsorship to reinvigorate Sparkling ICE and build awareness beyond the product’s Pacific Northwest stronghold. TalkingRain in 2011 relaunched the brand with new packaging and national distribution.

Those efforts follow a patch of turbulence for the company a few years earlier. That included two unsuccessful product launches—Twist and Active Water—a decline in accounts and the subsequent departure of TalkingRain’s president, CEO and vice president during a six-week period in 2010.

Enter Kevin Klock, who took the reins of TalkingRain following the executive shakeup.  

The CEO’s charge: develop new sales and marketing strategies for the zero-calorie beverage.  

“Sparkling ICE has been successful in the Pacific Northwest for a long time. Everyone loves the product, but we never focused on marketing.”

The brand’s new packaging initiatives paid off: Kroger rolled out Sparkling ICE nationally after testing the product in a handful of stores in Indiana.  The company in 2011 generated $60 million in revenue, up 140 percent from the previous year.

That growth has earned accolades from industry watchers. TalkingRain is one of the country’s three top-performing consumer packaged goods companies in the small company category (retail sales between $100 million and $1 billion), according to a recent study by The Boston Consulting Group and Information Resources, Inc.

The other two top-performing companies: Idahoan Foods LLC (packaged mash potatoes and casseroles) and Handi-Foil Corp. (disposable aluminum pans).

TalkingRain is using sponsorship to accomplish three primary objectives: reach 35-to-44-year-olds, skewed female; gain sampling opportunities; and engage retailers with promotional platforms and/or hospitality opportunities.

Connecting with consumers in a one-on-one environment is a key objective, said Russ Schleiden, TalkingRain’s vice president of marketing.

“We want to spend time with consumers, get to know them and talk about our brand.”

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Sparkling ICE Turns On The Sponsorship Spigot

While Sparkling ICE sponsored the Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance and other local and regional events in 2011 and 2012, the brand took the sponsorship program to the next level with its November 2012 partnership with the LPGA. 

The tie includes on- and off-site components including title of the “Bold Round of the Day” tournament highlights on the Golf Channel, a presence on LPGA.com, sampling rights at tournaments and pro-am and other hospitality benefits.

Sparkling ICE also gains sales rights at 11 of the LPGA’s 15 U.S. tournaments, said Scott Ensign, the LPGA’s senior director of corporate partnerships.

The partnership also affords hosting opportunities at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. and other unique courses, he added.

The national sponsorship push builds on TalkingRain’s long-running support of marathons, nonprofits and other local events in the Pacific Northwest. Those include the Tri-Cities Water Follies hydroplane race in Kennewick, Wash. and the Susan G. Komen Puget Sound affiliate.

“We hate the term ‘corporate social responsibility,’” said Klock. “We have always been a grassroots company. That’s part of our DNA.”

The company has activated Komen with a cause-related marketing program around which it donates one cent for each bottle of Sparking ICE Pink Grapefruit sold in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

TalkingRain has ambushed events that have exclusive deals or that are cost prohibitive. For example, the company in April sampled in a VIP area at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

“In some circumstances we can’t get in the front door,” said Klock.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Team Enterprises helps implement ties.