Backed by ‘The Rock,’ VOSS Aims for Evolution

Bringing in one of the world’s biggest box office stars as the new face of premium imported water brand Voss is not exactly a subtle move. But for a company seeking to reassert itself after a transitional period in senior leadership, subtlety was not an option.

Earlier this month, Voss landed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as both an investor and strategic advisor, a move that is as much a signal of intent for the Norwegian water brand as it is a business decision. Kicked off on August 5, the new “Live Every Drop” ad campaign, in which Johnson both stars and helped create through his Seven Bucks Creative agency, is the opening salvo in the company’s effort to evolve beyond its on-premise origins and attack the broader bottled water space.

“It’s really a change in how Voss is presenting itself,” the company’s head of marketing, Ariel Boorstin, told BevNET earlier this month. “Doing things of that scale is a big focal point (for us).”

With Johnson, Voss has found a partner who’s worldwide recognition and marketing muscle has few rivals; the former WWE star has earned $89.4 million so far this year, comprised of star turns in film franchises like “Jumanji” and “Fast and Furious” along with television work and a brand partnership with Under Armor. His popularity in Asia — where China-based Reignwood Group, Voss’s majority stakeholder, have been actively expanding the brand — is an added bonus.

Specifically for Voss, Johnson provides a bridge from the brand’s foundations in on-premise service at hotels and restaurants to a wider consumer audience. The new marketing campaign — a behind-the-scenes look at how Voss fuels Johnson’s lifestyle at work and at play — reflects that change in tone. Boorstin hailed the star’s “incredible track record of knowing his audience and knowing how to deliver the things that are meaningful for them,” and his ability to invite new consumers into the brand is a clear point of focus.

“Voss has been a bit niche,” she said, noting how the company has been traditionally associated with the on-premise outlets where consumers find it. “Now is the right time to be more overtly messaging around the brand and welcoming more people to experience all the true emotional benefits. From that standpoint, (Johnson) is a huge part. He is kind of the pinnacle of being aspirational yet acceptable and welcoming.”

Johnson may be the face of Voss’s new era, but its multi-year distribution agreement with PepsiCo’s foodservice division will be the machine pushing the brand forward. The soda giant already has a significant stake in the premium water market with LIFEWTR, but has helped Voss move into outlets like OTG, HMS Host and other accounts that align with travel and leisure. As for broader foodservice opportunities, Mark Zettle, president of sales for the Americas, hinted that the company had an eye on expansion.

“All-day points of availability in a wide variety of locations are now being developed, places like airport retail, hospital refreshment centers, cafeterias and shops in schools and universities, quick serve restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, all of these consumption opportunities are very exciting as VOSS becomes a more accessible brand,” Zettle wrote in an email. “The benefit with this type of expansion is that our foodservice initiatives strongly complement our conventional retail objectives with a balanced approach for our consumers to find our product for take home, on-the-go, and everywhere in between.”

The addition of Johnson is also expected to inject fresh energy and enthusiasm into Voss after period of change. Snapple veteran Jack Belsito, the architect of the Pepsi deal, departed the company after seven years as CEO in 2017 to join First Beverage Ventures; his successor, fellow Snapple alum Joe Bayern, left to become president of cannabis company INDUS Holding Co. in January.

Under new leadership, Boorstin said the company has begun the process of “shifting what it means to be Voss.” That includes sourcing water from outside of Norway — a process that Reignwood has begun seeding in China — and other sustainability focused initiatives. Meanwhile, the introduction of the brand’s first functional offerings, including recovery and energy waters, early next year will be a further step in Voss’s evolution.

“The core and heritage of the brand will always be artesian water from Norway,” Boorstin said. “But the water being from Norway doesn’t add much value from consumer standpoint — it’s more about the meaningful benefits we are able to deliver.”

Zettle echoed those thoughts. “At the core of all of our activities, we are tying each of our channel strategies together,” he wrote. “We want our consumers to be able to have a premium experience with our products in all usage occasions, with more choices and more accessibility than ever.”