Bottled water deal brims with UT appeal
Venture to raise money for school
They say University of Texas fans bleed orange. Now, they can drink it, too.
Today, UT President Williams Powers Jr., along with GSD&M Idea City co-founders Steve Gurasich and Tim McClure, will announce a partnership to sell H2Orange, purified water packaged in a bottle that is a scale-model replica of the UT Tower.
About 40 percent of proceeds from the venture will go to scholarships, fellowships and internships for UT students. The founders of H2Orange said the goal is to raise at least $1 million annually for such projects. Just less than 60 percent of proceeds will go toward business operations and profits. Gurasich declined to disclose estimates for those because
Continued from A they “are not certain and can’t venture an amount this early.”
“We are a private company with a public heart,” said McClure, who graduated from UT in 1970. “It’s (our) legacy to give back to our alma mater.”
Gurasich graduated in 1971, and the two have been business partners for 39 years, founding Austin’s largest advertising company in 1971.
“Our battle cry is, ‘Drink water. Bleed orange. Fund scholarships,” McClure said.
Among the bottled water company’s small group of investors — all of whom attended UT — are golfer Ben Crenshaw, business giant Red McCombs and former quarterback James Street.
UT is not putting money into the deal, but the licensing agreement will yield 8 percent of the proceeds, the company estimates.
The iconic 307-foot UT Tower — perhaps the university’s most prominent symbol — was completed in 1937. At the center of the UT campus, it is lighted burnt orange to celebrate sports victories and graduations. It is used throughout the university’s logos and marketing and featured throughout the university’s website.
It was also the site of Charles Whitman’s 1966 shooting rampage, the nation’s worst mass killing at the time with fatal wounds to 14 people.
Despite the tower’s iconic status, this is the first license UT has granted for a consumable product featuring the building.
“We’re excited about this,” Powers said. “It’ll be something the public and the alumni will enjoy, and it will go to a good cause of helping our students.”
The 16.9-ounce water bot- tles will go on sale Aug. 25, the first day of classes at UT, with a suggested price of $1.19 to $1.49. The water may even be sold in College Station — home of UT’s rival, the Texas A&M University Aggies — but there’s no telling whether it will be consumed or used for target practice, Gurasich and McClure joked.
It will be the official water for the Texas Exes tailgating parties and will be available at the Texas Exes center. But H2Orange will not be sold at UT games because of licensing agreements with other beverage companies.
The bottled water industry is strong, with $9 billion in stateside sales and $100 billion in sales globally, said Tom Lauria, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association, a trade group for water bottlers, distributors and suppliers with members worldwide.
The industry took a 1 percent dip last year because of the economy, Lauria said, but there are early signs that it is rebounding. There are about 800 water bottlers nationally.
Though Lauria was not told specifics of the partnership — which university was involved or what symbol the bottle replicated — he said private water bottle labels affiliated with a university would have a builtin market through campus supporters and students.
“It sounds like a fun bottle of water, and they probably will do well because of it,” Lauria said. Using a university’s symbol may prompt people to keep the bottles, he said, but “if you do drink it, you can put pennies in (it) as a collector’s item.”
McClure, author of the Don’t Mess with Texas antilitter campaign, came up with the idea to use the UT Tower as a water bottle three years ago while at a dinner honoring longtime UT donor Jack Blanton. McClure has nicknamed the drinkers of this bottled water “H2Orangebloods.”
Though the bottled water industry remains healthy, critics say that making and transporting plastic bottles uses energy resources and that often, empty bottles accumulate in landfills. Some cities and other entities have banned purchases of bottled water for city operations or city-sponsored events, while others have made efforts to reduce their consumption. In 2008, Austin stopped using bottled water at City Hall meetings, opting for pitchers of water on the council dais.
The bottle is 100 percent recyclable, and the company has bought carbon credits, which fund projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, through Green Mountain Energy.
“We’re trying to be as conscious about it as we can,” Gurasich said.
The water will come from the Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi, where the Corpus Christi Municipal Water District will purify it before the independent Oneta Bottling Company bottles it. The bottled water will always come from a Texas source and be bottled in-state and will always fund scholarships, Gurasich and McClure said.
H2Orange joins a long list of products from which UT benefits through licensing agreements. As government funding for higher education falls and the economy falters, colleges across the country are looking for ways to increase their funding for scholarships. H2Orange’s founders said they hope the idea will catch on at other schools.
“If this is successful here, we think it could be successful elsewhere,” McClure said.
The University of Texas and GSD&M Idea City partnered to create bottled water in a UT Tower-shaped container.