The Drink Up Campaign Is Improving America’s Health, One Water Bottle at a Time

The Drink Up Campaign Is Improving America’s Health, One Water Bottle at a Time

While fragmentation has become quite the buzzword across the media landscape, it’s just as prevalent in some key retail categories. Take the refrigerated beverage aisle at your favorite convenience store, for example. Chances are you’d need to walk a good 10 steps or so just to evaluate all the options behind the frosty glass doors.

From fizzy to energy-boosting to classic cola, beverage makers have their work cut out for themselves if they want to catch the eyes of busy, fast-moving consumers. So with so many options, where does that leave water? While it doesn’t have the flair of an option that’s infused with super fruit nectar, water is after all, the drink of life. And with the right marketing campaign, research shows that water can stand out.

In fact, water can leverage the same eye-catching marketing tactics that other categories use. And by doing so, the Drink Up campaign, now in its second year, has boosted sales of bottled water and filtered water products 4% among those who were exposed to its ads compared with those who didn’t see them. The campaign has also yielded a return of $6 in estimated incremental sales for every dollar spent on advertising. These metrics, highlighted in the second phase of a study into the effectiveness of the campaign by Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS), show how focusing on the best-performing audience segments and adjusting a media plan along the way can drive continually improving results.  

It wasn’t too long ago that the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and First Lady Michelle Obama collaborated to form the Drink Up initiative to encourage Americans to drink more water. The premise was simple, but tracking the results was critical in understanding if Drink Up’s messaging was resonating with consumers. During the initial phase of the initiative, NCS found that the Drink Up campaign drove a 3% lift in incremental sales of bottled water among people who had seen the campaign’s online ads. That equates to almost $1 million in incremental retail sales of bottled water. At the end of the second phase, that metric had risen to 4%.

For the recent study, NCS focused on the purchasing habits of households that were exposed to online Drink Up ads during the 13-week period between Oct. 2 and Dec. 31, 2014. To measure the impact of the campaign on in-store sales, NCS used a single-source methodology to determine the incremental retail sales lift of bottled water and water filter products among the households exposed to the ads. NCS then compared the purchases from those households with those of a control group that did not see the advertising.

In looking at the results from the second study, the Well Beings and the Fence-Sitters both responded favorably to the online advertising. The Well Beings were more responsive, however, as they drove more than 51% of the incremental retail sales, generating $143 in sales for every 1,000 impressions served. Comparatively, the Fence Sitters contributed 14% of the sales volume and generated $16 in sales for every 1,000 impressions.

So where did the increase in water sales come from? The study found that as bottled water, water filters and sparkling water increased, carbonated soft drinks, milk and juice lost market share. The study also found that the increased sales were driven by people buying more water per shopping trip and buying it more often rather than by growing the number of new purchasers.


To measure the effectiveness of the campaign, NCS identified two groups of nearly identical households that were matched on hundreds of variables, including the mix of category and brand purchases, during the 12 months before the campaign:

  • Households exposed to the ads.
  • Households not exposed to the ads.

NCS then measured the sales differences between the two groups during and after the campaign. In addition to the total sales, key metrics such as penetration, buying rate, occasions and purchase amount were determined to see what factors drove the sales results.

About the Partnership for a Healthier America

PHA is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that is led by some of the nation’s most respected health and childhood obesity experts. PHA brings together public, private and nonprofit leaders to broker meaningful commitments and develop strategies to end childhood obesity. Most important, PHA ensures that commitments made are commitments kept by working with unbiased third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress our partners are making. For more information, visit