Curtis Jackson, the Queens-born rapper who goes by 50 Cent, has made his name with such rap hits as In Da Club, as well as a hip-hop product empire including ring tones, movies, a video game, sneakers, apparel, music publishing and his own recording label.
But Jackson, 32, is also known for enthusiastic promotion of a product less associated with hip-hop: Glacéau VitaminWater. Beyond ads, he's also mentioned it in songs and put it in music videos.
The relationship began when privately held Glacéau, founded in 1996, saw Jackson pose with a bottle in a print ad for Reebok, another endorsement, and learned he's a fan. In 2004, Glacéau offered him a minority stake to pitch VitaminWater.
He's done print ads and promotions, and now is in the first national TV ad. In it, he leads a "National Symphony" orchestra in a classical arrangement of In Da Club from his CD Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
Jackson even helped develop his own VitaminWater — grape-flavored, vitamin-enriched Formula 50.
Jackson's backing has helped Glacéau with younger consumers. And that was among the reasons beverage giant Coca-Cola ko scooped up the company in May for $4.1 billion. Jackson's stake got him an estimated $100 million, according to the Forbes list of "World's Most Powerful Celebrities" or about half that, by other estimates, but either way, the sale earned a line in his new, appropriately titled single: I Get Money.
Jackson, who's got a new album due Sept. 11, on the marketing of 50 Cent and Glacéau:
Q:Glacéau recruited you because they saw that you drank their water. How did you discover it?
A: I came across it in a gym in Los Angeles.
Q:You even recently closed a song at the BET Awards singing, "VitaminWater, VitaminWater." Why so pumped up?
A: I wouldn't be a part of it if it wasn't part of my lifestyle. I travel a lot, so I'm health conscious, but I get tired of drinking so much water. It's perfect for me — they do such a good job making water taste good.
Q: Does drinking the water make you more credible?
A: Consumers watch us on the red carpet. They see jewelry, and they know it's going right back (to the jeweler who loaned it). It's not real. If it's part of your lifestyle, they have a stronger passion.
Q:Are you selling Glacéau or 50 Cent?
A: A little bit of both. It's impossible not to. You can't escape who I am as an artist.
Q:In the TV ad, you appear to conduct the orchestra. Did you really do that?
A: They knew what to do. If I gave them a wrong gesture, they just knew to keep going.
Q:Since Coca-Cola now owns Glacéau, will you be promoting other Coke products?
A: I'm not sure other products would translate the same with my listeners because it may not be as real. Glacéau has allowed me to customize my own flavor … and do different things with the campaign. Major companies usually lock in and use executives to come up with ideas before an artist or endorser is involved.
Q:You're still under contract to endorse VitaminWater. What's next with that?
A: More VitaminWater promotion. I'm excited about it because they allow my input. I'm more closely associated with VitaminWater than anyone. I'm the Air Jordan of VitaminWater.
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