Rebel with a cause
Hip-hop artist 50 Cent partners to launch beverage with charitable benefit
As a hip-hop artist and actor, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is no stranger to collaborations. However, Jackson’s latest collaboration does not involve celebrities, but Pure Growth Partners, a New York City-based company that conceives and markets consumer brands with a philanthropic component.
Jackson is a part-owner in Pure Growth Partners, which was started by Chris Clarke, founder and chief executive officer of the company. This month, the company launched Street King energy shots. Every energy shot purchased will provide a meal for a child in need with the goal of feeding 1 billion children in the next five years.
“I was really inspired by Chris Clarke’s vision and innovative approach to combating serious issues affecting the world,” Jackson says. “Our unique partnership was based on a singular and shared mission to launch a consumer brand that would give back to those in need.”
Jackson’s persona in the media reflects his storied past. However, Clarke says the Street King collaboration provides an opportunity for an adjustment in how fans recognize Jackson.
“We want rebel with a cause now, not just rebel,” he says. “We want him to be a voice around the injustice of malnutrition now. Watch this space, he’ll play a much bigger role in that.”
The hip-hop artist says the charity partnership was paramount to his involvement.
“Thousands of children die from hunger-related causes every day; this is a worldwide epidemic, which challenges us to act now and do our part in the fight against world hunger,” Jackson says. “It was important for Street King to have a charity component because my mission with this launch is to affect people’s lives in a positive way and bring out real change.”
Opting for energy
Pure Growth Partners chose the energy shot category as their first beverage launch because of the lack of a clear No. 2 brand in the category. The partnership with Jackson was a natural fit for the energy category as the rapper is known for his personal energy and physical fitness, Clarke says.
“Street King Energy keeps me fueled and focused,” Jackson says. “I lead a very active lifestyle whether it’s performing five shows a week in three different countries, training for a new movie role or writing a book, I need a lot of energy to get me through my day, and it’s a big part of my success.”
In addition, the company saw an opportunity for an energy shot that appealed to a younger, more urban demographic like Jackson’s fans, Clarke says. He explains that the company believes the majority of energy shot consumption is by people ages 18 to 35 years old.
Darin Ezra, president of Pure Growth Partners’ beverage division, explains that Street King’s demographic appeal presents an opportunity in the marketplace.
“Monster is to Red Bull what Street King is to 5-Hour Energy,” Ezra says. “It’s the alternative to the young consumer who is hip and he’s into pop culture, especially the young male demographic totally embraces the whole urban rap culture. Nobody has catered to this market in the shot category, until now.”
Street King is available in Orange Mango and Grape varieties for $2.49 to $2.99. The energy shot contains 100 percent natural flavors, no artificial colors and is made with a natural source of caffeine, which is derived from coffee beans, the company says. Each 2.5-ounce shot has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but contains no carbohydrates, calories or sugar. Street King’s Grape variety also is fortified with vitamins and ginkgo biloba.
“The product is an amazing tasting, highly effective energy supplement, but more importantly, it’s a vehicle to feed children,” Ezra says.
Pure Growth Partners is working with the United Nations World Food Program to provide meals globally. The company also is working to form a partnership with a U.S.-based organization, Clarke says.
Supporting Street King
Pure Growth Partners has assembled a team of industry veterans to help Street King achieve its goals — and at a rapid pace.
“We think there’s a window of opportunity for someone to take No. 2 in the energy shot category,” Clarke says. “We’re not going to do it slowly and wait three years in the hope that we get there. We’re really going to go very hard.”
Joining Ezra, who also is chief executive officer of Power Brands Consulting LLC, is a team experienced in the energy category. Dan Ginsberg, former chief executive officer of Red Bull North America, is helping structure the company’s sales, marketing and distribution programs. Peter Strahm, who was the vice president and general manager for Red Bull North America, is setting up Street King’s East Coast distribution.
Throughout his career, Strahm has worked with now-iconic brands, such as Red Bull and Snapple, as they rose to popularity.
“The feel of the Street King brand has the same feel as the most successful brands I have worked with, and today’s marketplace seems even more ready for this brand than what I experienced with other successful brands before,” Strahm says. “The younger, edgier consumer base that exists in the current marketplace and strong marketing support behind the Street King brand gives me a strong sense that the time is right to succeed with this partnership.”
Pure Growth Partners also is working with California’s Energized Distribution, which was a top Red Bull distributor. The company is handling the West Coast and Southwest sales and distribution of Street King.
As with Energized Distribution, Pure Growth Partners is working with key distributors throughout the United States, but in areas where a strong distribution partner does not exist, Street King will create one, Strahm says. Such is the case with New York City where Strahm helped to create King Distributing to launch Street King in the metropolitan area.
Handling national accounts and manufacturing is Gary Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Big Red & All Sport, who also formerly worked with Red Bull North America as the company’s chief operating officer.
Ezra explains that Pure Growth Partners has set up production around the country to keep pace with consumer demand.
“We have the possibility to supply as many shots as the market can absorb,” the company’s beverage division president says. “I have been involved in developing and manufacturing more than 400 beverage brands, so we have production dialed in to such a degree that within a matter of weeks, we can dial up our national production to literally an unlimited supply.”
With its production and distribution lineup in place, Pure Growth Partners has targeted Street King to be available in 50,000 to 60,000 outlets nationwide by Dec. 31, Clarke says. The product debuted with national distribution at 7-Eleven outlets and is targeting 20,000 to 30,000 key account points of distribution with an additional 10,000 stores on each of the coasts, he says.
Getting the word out
The company is supporting the launch of Street King with a marketing budget ranging from $40 million to $50 million, Clarke says.
At the center of Street King’s premiere is its social media and viral marketing, which is the focus for the first eight to 12 weeks. 50 Cent has nearly 17 million fans on Facebook and 4.8 million followers on Twitter. His website, thisis50.com, attracts 20 million unique visitors each week, Clarke says.
Street King’s marketing plan also includes sampling as well as print and TV advertising. The company also is planning a promotion that will come out in November, which is near the same time that the latest 50 Cent album will be released. Clarke says statistics show the possibility that the album launch could expand 50 Cent’s social media followers by 50 percent to 100 percent.
Street King also benefits from Jackson’s support and that of fellow celebrity friends and allies, Clarke says. Pure Growth Partners is planning to tap into Jackson’s fans’ passion and invite fans to become Street King ambassadors, Clarke says.
“I conceived the Street King brand along with Pure Growth Partners because this is something I truly believe in and am dedicated to building,” Jackson says. “Over the years, I have launched numerous ventures which my fans have supported because they know and trust whatever initiatives I am involved in, I am 100 percent committed,” Jackson says. “I hope they will join me in the fight against world hunger.”
Big Red’s Smith says his company produces many private label energy shots and noted Street King’s marketing plan and charitable component as the reason he got involved.
“The differentiating factor here, and what got me excited, was the fact that they are going to feed children and use a lot of their proceeds to give back,” Smith says. “I think that’s going to be compelling for buyers.”
Compounded with the charity partnership, Energized Distribution’s Managing Partner Bill Juarez says he was inspired to get involved with Street King because of Jackson’s credibility as a celebrity partner as well as the product’s efficacy and taste.
“I’ve had a chance to taste the product and it is phenomenal tasting,” Juarez says.
Celebrity and charitable partnerships are integrated components of Pure Growth Partners’ business plan. Former global advertising executive Clarke cites a statistic that 20 percent of people believe in advertising, but 90 percent believe in referrals from friends, and many people include celebrities in the list as friends.
The celebrity partnerships provide extra support to Pure Growth Partners’ one-for-one charity donation model, which Clarke says was inspired by Tom’s Shoes. The accessory company donates a pair of new shoes to a child in need for each pair that is purchased.
Together with his business partner Ray Chambers, a former investment banker who co-founded America’s Promise, Millennium Promise and Malaria No More charities, Clarke says the executives feel that business must play a part in alleviating social issues.
“The only way that this world will change, we think, is through business and if business commits to giving a percentage of sales or doing something,” Clarke says. “There’s certainly enough revenue in the world to stop extreme poverty, and that was our goal. We talked about the Tom’s Shoes model and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a company that everything that we launch we have a one-for-one give-back component?’”
Ezra explains that the company’s relationship with Power Brands Consulting presents an opportunity to be involved with new products in the better-for-you and functional categories. The company has two additional beverages in the works, including a children’s drink, which will benefit water or hunger-related issues, Clarke says.
Pure Growth Partners also is developing products and partnerships with celebrities and charities in consumer packaged goods, luxury goods and media/technology categories.
In addition to helping charities, Pure Growth Partners hopes to inspire other companies, Clarke says.
“If this is a huge hit, then we’d love it if other drink companies would set out and have another give-back component; that to us is real success,” he says. BI