In 1992, Talking Rain Beverage Company introduced its flagship beverage, Sparkling Ice, to the world. Since then, it’s been redefining sparkling water, proving that natural flavor and fun need not be mutually exclusive. Sparkling Ice was the first beverage to trade sugar for sucralose, kicking off the no-sugar beverage craze and earning a host of loyal customers. Almost two decades later, Sparkling Ice remains a strong contender in the sparkling water category, with over $650 million in annual sales.
In Q3 2020, Sparkling Ice and its creative agencies, Hawkeye and Viva Partnership, hoped to expand its market share and edge out competitors like La Croix, Vitamin Water, and Bai. The brand had reached a plateau among mainstream consumers, so the marketing team commissioned Viva Partnership to help uncover a new niche. Through this research, they hoped to glean a better understanding of which markets may have untapped potential and how best to reach those consumers.
Viva Partnership undertook an ambitious study to determine areas of opportunity for the Sparkling Ice brand. The study suggested that Sparkling Ice had not achieved equal household penetration among Hispanics. Moreover, the research proved that Hispanics are more invested in mobile gaming than other groups: They over-index by 26% in playing video games by streaming media. They are also 1.2 times more likely to use a gaming category website on their smartphone. These factors contributed to the brand’s decision to target the Hispanic market via the mobile gaming space.
Reaching new markets requires more than precision targeting — when the audience is small, brands need to invest in the right media channels to achieve scale. The year prior, Sparkling Ice had dipped its toe into the mobile gaming space through a partnership with Tapjoy. The rewarded mobile ad network had demonstrated considerable reach among Hispanic gamers. Unlike mainstream growth channels, Tapjoy also offered performance pricing. This would allow Sparkling Ice to tie hard metrics to performance and make the most of its ad budget.
The brand had two core objectives for the campaign: to boost brand awareness, through completed video views; and to solicit engagement, through interactive creative. Tapjoy’s rewarded model would ensure a high volume of completed video views and provide the functionality for a playable end card.
The key idea behind the 2020 Sparkling Ice campaign was “Flavor for All,” with a focus on inclusive messaging. In advance of the campaign, Tapjoy and the Sparkling Ice team joined a creative kick-off call to brainstorm ad concepts. Next, Tapjoy’s design team, the Interplay Studio®, created custom mock-ups. “We understood that the Sparkling Ice brand would be best-served by a customized creative execution,” Alex Rosenthal, Visual Designer at Tapjoy explained. “To complement the fun, joyful character of the brand, we proposed two playable Video to Interactive End Card executions.”
The first playable unit would be a simple memory game called “Fruit Match,” in which users tap to reveal hidden fruit flavors and make pairs. The second would be a two-part tapper called “Whack a Fruit,” in which users tap fruit flavors to score points. The designers customized both units to hit Sparkling Ice’s KPIs — video completes, and game engagement. Clicks to the call to action were secondary, so the design team baked in UI elements to keep users playing. Tests among a control group revealed that 20s timers led to maximum engagement.
Throughout July and August 2020, roughly 3 million people viewed the Sparkling Ice video ads. The video completion rate was extremely strong at 94% — well above Tapjoy’s CPG benchmark of 90%. The average game engagement rate was 18.4%, exceeding Tapjoy’s 20% benchmark, while the completion rate was 95% — nearly 5X the 20% benchmark. The click-through rate averaged 0.16%, also on par with Tapjoy’s 0.15% benchmark for similar games.
Sparkling Ice and Hawkeye stakeholders were very pleased with the campaign’s performance. It also helped advance their position in the market, beyond what other ad units could deliver. Here’s what Melissa Sieben of Hawkeye had to say:
“Ever since we started working with Tapjoy, we’ve seen engagement increase quarter over quarter and year over year. We’ve been able to test and learn from a creative perspective and shift accordingly, which speaks to the optimization and flexibility of Tapjoy’s marketing strategists and ad formats,” she explained.
The mobile gaming environment was integral to the entire campaign. The ad units leveraged cutting-edge interactivity, making use of features that would not be accessible via desktop. The rewarded model also further gamified the ad experience by providing consumers with virtual currency to use in the host app upon video completion. Throughout the campaign, Sparkling Ice paid only for completed video views, with game engagements as added value. Sparkling Ice plans to continue investing in its partnership with Tapjoy in the years to come.
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