MTV gets juiced for China market


Viacom's MTV Networks and China's biggest pure fruit juice company, Huiyuan, announced a deal Tuesday to market music and healthy beverages to young Chinese TV viewers.

The deal comes as health moves to the fore of many marketing campaigns ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On Monday, another global brand with youth appeal — the NBA — said it has formed a marketing partnership with Mengniu, China's largest dairy.

Privately held juice giant Huiyuan is joining hands in an open-ended partnership with MTV in a bid to go from being a "mama brand" — one bought by moms for kids — to one that kids ask for themselves, said Matthew Mouw, the company's American vp and chief operating officer.

"Huiyuan wants to become a global brand, and MTV wants to become a local brand," said Li Yifei, managing director of MTV Greater China, whose programs reach 181 million mainland households, largely in China's first-tier cities. Earlier this year, "SpongeBob Square-Pants," from MTV Networks' Nickelodeon Channel, briefly became the No. 1 cartoon on Chinese TV.

Meanwhile, Huiyuan's distribution is broader than MTV's, reaching first-, second- and third-tier cities, Mouw said.

To start their partnership, MTV began airing a five-minute new music segment this month called "Huiyuan First Listen" during its most popular daily show, "Tian Lai Cun."

At a news conference at a Beijing nightclub, Huiyuan's new spokesmodel, twentysomething pop singer Yuan Quan, wore tiny oranges on her white lapel and green shorts the same shade as the company's trademark juice boxes.

The singer, who hails from the northern port city Qingdao, sang her hit "Lonely Flower," now No. 2 on the MTV China chart.

"Drink Huiyuan and watch MTV" was shouted by the MTV emcees repeatedly at the roomful of mostly local reporters gathered for a business-card drawing for prizes ranging from an MTV jacket or an iPod to a 42-inch plasma TV or a four-day Hong Kong vacation.

Huiyuan had 47% of China's pure juice market in 2006, Nielsen data shows, and its sales last year grew 42%, Mouw said. The Beijing-based company is majority owned by Zhu Xinli with minority-share strategic partners in the French company Danone and in the U.S. investment firm Warburg Pincus, Mouw said.

Danone also is a partner of the NBA's new marketing partner Mengniu, Mouw said.

On Monday in Beijing, NBA China vp and managing director Mark Fischer said Mengniu will be the official dairy product of the NBA in China.

Mengniu, the lead sponsor of last year's huge "American Idol" knockoff hit "Super Girl Voice," from Hunan Satellite TV, said it will promote its dairy products during the NBA programming now airing on 51 Chinese television stations, including China Central Television.

Neither marketing deal has a cash value attached.