OLIPOP's Rapid Rise: From $75m to $200m in Just One Year

Hi Fellow Marketers,

In March 2022, after only a few weeks as a CX associate at a vegan chicken nugget startup, I was approached about a position at a "functional beverage brand."

I had no idea what that meant, and I certainly had no idea that the next two years would completely change my career and life.

My first OLIPOP conversation was with Steven Vigilante. Steven, a fellow soda slinger, has been with the company since its inception and has played a major role in its meteoric rise.

More than a year has gone by since I left OLIPOP, and the company is on track to generate more than $200 million in revenue this year alone, up from $75 million last year. I recently met with Steven to learn about the incredible work he’s been doing on the growth and talent side.

  • The Influencer Formula: How OLIPOP Finds the Right Partners

  • Going Wide: How OLIPOP is Operating in True Soda Territory

  • Zooming into 9-figures: How OLIPOP's Shift from Direct Response to Brand Building is Taking Them to the Next Level

Steven spared no details and gave quite a few exclusive bits, so let’s dive in.

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The Influencer Formula: How OLIPOP Finds the Right Partners

In this exclusive interview with Steven Vigilante, Director of Growth + Talent at OLIPOP, we dive into the world of influencer marketing and uncover the secrets behind OLIPOP's success in selecting the right influencers to drive their brand growth.

Q: Steven, OLIPOP has experienced incredible growth, thanks in part to your strategic partnerships with influencers. Can you shed some light on the process of selecting the right influencers for OLIPOP?

Steven: Absolutely! At OLIPOP, we receive a million cold emails from influencers seeking collaboration opportunities. To navigate this sea of potential partnerships, we need a solid formula to determine which influencers would truly resonate with our target audience.

The key is to find influencers who are genuinely interested in our brand and have already shown their support by posting about us. Ideally, we look for influencers who are also customers themselves, as they bring an added level of authenticity to the partnership.

Q: That's interesting. How do you further narrow down the selection of influencers?

Steven: One of the criteria we consider is whether the influencer aligns with the center of our concentric circle (i.e., Whole Foods’ moms in LA), or if they deviate from it by just a few degrees (i.e., a mother of four that shops at Walmart in Kentucky).

We aim to broaden our circle and reach a wider audience without straying too far from our core values. It's about finding the right balance between expanding our reach and staying true to our brand identity.

Q: Can you share any specific examples of successful influencer partnerships that have contributed to OLIPOP's growth?

Steven: Certainly! One of the significant changes we made was shifting from a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) model to a Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) model.

We focused on partnering with creators whose content aligned with our larger objectives, such as food, gatherings, or family–core values of our brand.


Thankful For Every Lunch She Packs Me @drinkolipop #olipoppartner #yeatp_

We even sent an OLIPOP fridge to Miah Pie, a police officer in Alabama, as a unique way to engage with the community there.

These partnerships create memorable product placements that resonate with our target audience, not just our current one. Miah is also known for her Publix videos, and Publix is a major partner of ours.

Q: How do you ensure that the influencers you collaborate with cut through the noise and stand out from other brand placements?

Steven: One of our strategies is to work with influencers who are not overloaded with a multitude of brand deals. Influencers who have too many partnerships can dilute the impact of their content, making it challenging to cut through the noise.

On the Celebrity side, that's why we were drawn to musicians Camilla Cabello, who had only collaborated with . and had not ventured into the beverage industry. By going deep with a few select Partners, we can ensure that our message stands out and makes a lasting impression.

Going Wide: How OLIPOP is Operating in True Soda Territory

Q: Steven, OLIPOP has made significant strides in expanding its market presence. Where most functional beverages have just stuck to coastal affluent customers, OLIPOP hit Walmart and Target nationwide, and where most beverage brands are sponsoring folks on IG, y’all are getting into sports and culture. Can you tell us about the journey of entering ‘true soda’ territory?

Steven: When we first started, we focused on a specific audience, such as the California Whole Foods shopper, using a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) model. However, as we scaled and entered larger retail chains like Walmart and Target, our approach needed to evolve. We began to think in terms of brand extension, going beyond our initial niche audience to reach a wider customer base.

Q: How did OLIPOP navigate this transition and successfully operate in true soda territory?

Steven: One of the key shifts we made was flipping the influencer paradigm from direct response to product placement. Instead of solely focusing on CPA-driven influencers who primarily drove DTC orders, we started collaborating with creators who aligned with our brand's core values and represented larger objectives such as food, gatherings, or family.

Q: Can you provide examples of successful influencer partnerships that have helped OLIPOP establish a foothold in the soda market?

Steven: We've had the opportunity to work with incredible influencers who have supported our expansion efforts. Let me share a few examples. We were blown away by the engagement we received when we partnered with Parker Thune, an Oklahoma Sooners radio host, who has a dedicated fan base on Twitter.

Through collaborations with Parker and leveraging the passion of his followers, we were able to generate significant buzz and reach millions of potential customers. I also love finding folks like Parker who’ve never done a brand deal before, and then going all-in with them. Their audience loves it.

We also recently announced our first professional sports sponsorship. We partnered with the Kansas City Current as their official better-for-you soda partner. The goal of this partnership was to not only prove that we can be a great partner in the sports space, but to also support Kansas City-based grocery chain HyVee, a core partner of ours in the Midwest.

Q: It's fascinating to see the power of social media and influencer partnerships. How has Twitter specifically contributed to OLIPOP's growth?

Steven: Twitter has been a game-changer for us. We found that by going deep with a select group of influencers who have less noisy content on the platform, we could tap into highly engaged communities.

For example, we discovered a Telegram group with over 3,000 Camilla Cabello fans who are highly active on Twitter. By ‘leaking’ exclusive behind-the-scenes content of her to these fan accounts, we generated substantial views and engagement. Twitter has allowed us to connect with passionate communities and amplify our brand message.

Q: That's impressive. How does OLIPOP measure the success of its influencer partnerships in terms of reaching a wider audience?

Steven: We work closely with our agency partner to track the Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) for our video product placements. By analyzing views, comments, and likes, we can gauge the level of engagement generated by these partnerships.

It's important to note that while direct conversion may not occur immediately on platforms like TikTok, we've observed that our store locator page on our website becomes one of the most visited pages. This indicates a strong interest and intent to purchase.

Over the last 18 months, we have generated over 1.3b views at a $0.61 CPM on Tiktok. While we haven’t seen a major uptick in DTC sales from this, we’ve seen velocities grow by 2-3x in all of our major retail accounts, which is a huge win for the business.

Zooming into 9-figures: How OLIPOP's Shift from Direct Response to Brand Building is Taking Them to the Next Level

Q: Steven, OLIPOP is projected to surpass $200 million in revenue this year while keeping marketing spend below 10%. Can you share some insights into how OLIPOP has achieved such remarkable efficiency?

Steven: Our focus on brand building has been instrumental in our ability to drive substantial growth with minimal marketing spend. By prioritizing strategic partnerships and retail-supported geographic alliances, we have been able to gain access to a wide range of distribution channels and expand our presence in over 22,000 doors.

I think we’ve also done a good job of diversifying our marketing mix, from Tiktok to the Camila campaign and our placement in the Nicki Minaj Barbie music video. People seem to always say they ‘see OLIPOP everywhere’ which is the best-case scenario for us on the Marketing team 😀.

Fun fact: considering the shelf space we have, we are doing the most amount of revenue in the least amount of retail doors in beverage history!

Q: Can you elaborate on the significance of retail-supported geographic partnerships for OLIPOP's growth?

Steven: Retail-supported geographic partnerships have been a game-changer for us. By strategically aligning ourselves with retailers like Hyvee (Kansas City) and Kroger (Ohio), we have been able to amplify our brand reach and drive awareness among their customer base.

These partnerships have not only increased our visibility but have also fostered strong buyer relationships. While it may require overpaying for content collaborations, the impact on our brand presence and shelf space in stores has been immense.

Q: OLIPOP has achieved an impressive 50% repeat purchase rate at grocery stores, higher than most competitors. How has brand building contributed to this remarkable customer loyalty?

Steven: Brand building has played a pivotal role in cultivating customer loyalty. By focusing on building a strong brand identity and delivering an exceptional product experience, we have created a deep affinity with our customers.

They trust our brand and have become repeat purchasers, driving our impressive retention rates. Our efforts to engage with our audience through partnerships, content creation, and challenges have further solidified our brand's connection with our customers.

Q: OLIPOP has a significant monthly subscriber base without spending any marketing dollars to grow the subscription. Can you share the secret behind this success?

Steven: The success of our subscription program is a testament to the power of the retail flywheel. By initially attracting customers through retail channels and providing an exceptional product experience, we have organically converted many of them into monthly subscribers.

The seamless transition from in-store purchases to subscriptions has created a powerful flywheel effect, where customer acquisition and retention feed into each other, driving continuous growth.

We’ve just passed 20k subscribers without spending anything on Meta ads (in the 12 months); most of our growth on subscription has been driven through our owned channels after a customer discovers the product in a grocery store.

Two last things before I head out.

1. Just a few minutes ago, JRB just launched one of my personal favorite products, period. Our Oil-Free Moisturizer is lightweight, clean, and helps my skin flourish.

2. I wanted to congratulate Novel, one of the only companies I’ve ever invested my own funds into, on launching their Apple and Google passes built for Shopify brands. These passes unlock a new channel for push notifications and referrals which is seeing pretty mind-blowing results.

That’s it for this week!

Any topics you'd like to see me cover in the future?

Just shoot me a DM or an email!


Eli 💛