NEW YORK -- 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.
NEW & NOTABLE
In the tradition of the 1975 classic Jaws, Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week is back to take a bite out of summer fun in the surf. Seven days of shows began Sunday, including programs on the deadliest shark attack ever, killer tiger sharks and what it's like to be eaten alive. (You can see a pattern here.)
Promotions for the annual fright fest's 20th anniversary include New York City cabs painted to resemble great whites and pop-up magazine ads that open to 5-inch-high shark fins. Last year, more than 20 million people tuned in to the 60 hours of Shark Week shows. To better satisfy the feeding frenzy, Discovery increased it to 130 hours this year. Says head of marketing Marina Anglim: "People love sharks."
Toymaker Mattel doesn't have a formal deal with Discovery, but like any good corporate predator, it knows how to attack an opportunity. Just out is its Matchbox Mega Rig Shark Ship (a giant sailing vessel with a giant shark and giant price of $44.99). To be sure no one misses the connection, Mattel cites Shark Week in its product announcement.
Singin' in the rain
Rihanna has rained, er, reigned over radio playlists with her hit song Umbrella. Now, the sexy singer's fans can stay dry under new Rihanna umbrellas from Totes Isotoner and her Def Jam music label. The line includes a rainbow of colors, with styles from $15 to $50 on totes-isotoner.com. Totes — maker of umbrellas, slickers and rubber footwear — may earn a little hip cachet as well as cash with this deal.
"The company has had a lot of fun with it," says Kristen Stary, category director for rain products. "We're happy that she's made umbrellas topical."
Are you ready for some logos?
Starting with the Aug. 9 preseason play, print photographers at National Football League games must wear vests sporting logos of the NFL, Reebok and camera-maker Canon. The NFL says it's so security can identify journalists on the sidelines, but the National Association of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press Managing Editors think the league stepped out of bounds. In letters to Commissioner Roger Goodell, they protested photographers becoming "walking billboards."
TV station crews get black vests with Reebok logos. Network crews can wear vests with their own logos.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the plan is not an ad ploy. "If it were, the (logo) size and the placement would be highly visible to the TV audience."
Water on tap
Under pressure from advocacy group Corporate Accountability International, PepsiCo is adding "Public Water Source" to Aquafina labels to clarify that, like many bottled waters, it is purified tap water. "It's a reasonable thing to do," spokeswoman Michelle Naughton says. The group argued that label images of snow-capped mountains and the slogan "pure water, perfect taste" implied it was spring water.
Girls just want to have funds
That sums up a just-released financial survey from female-oriented cable network Oxygen (2,100 U.S. women ages 15 to 70 polled from January to March). Highlights:
• 79%: Prefer $25,000 in stock to $25,000 in jewelry as a birthday gift from a significant other.
• 75%: Say they're more concerned with their assets looking big than their butt looking big.
• 70%: Say they'd rather their mother taught them to be a moneymaker rather than a homemaker.
• 64%: Prefer a financial makeover to a beauty makeover.
ASK THE AD TEAM
Q: My wife swears that the older actor in a Cingular commercial where a future son-in-law calls his future father-in-law is Robert Knepper, the T-Bag character in Prison Break. In the commercial, he convinces the younger man that it's OK to call him "Jim." I told her that it's not Knepper, but does look like him. Please let us know who's right. A dinner date is on the line.
A: She's buying. It's actor Michael Cullen playing the future father-in-law in the Cingular (now AT&T) commercial.
In the ad, Cullen plays Mr. McDermott, who tells the younger man on his cellphone to call him "Jim."
The young man begins to riff on the name, getting to "Jimbo" just as the call is dropped — leaving the young man thinking he's offended his bride's dad.
Cullen also now is appearing in a Cheerios commercial. In it, he plays a grandfather who tells his cute young grandson that Cheerios is helping him get ready for a big test — of his cholesterol.
Cullen also has had character roles in TV shows including Prince Street, Ed and Law & Order: Criminal Intent and has appeared on and off Broadway and in repertory theater. He also has had parts in feature films including Malcolm X and Clockers. Up next, Margot at the Wedding, a film starring Nicole Kidman.
As for Knepper, he's still doing time. He'll be back as mean-spirited convict Theodore Bagwell on Sept. 17 for the third season of Prison Break on Fox
Contributing: By Laura Petrecca