With bottled water getting a bad rap due to its eco-unfriendly packaging, an upstart water marketer is hoping that its aseptic container made primarily from paper will give it a leg up on much larger competitors—and is using sponsorship to spread the word and gain additional retail distribution.

With its tag line of “Save the planet, one drink at a time,” Refreshing Ideas LLC positions its h20 natural spring water as “the most sustainable option for water on the go,” said Julie Atherton, the company’s president and owner.

Refreshing Ideas’ biggest sponsorship play has been with music festivals, signing deals for h20 with Lollapalooza in Chicago, Austin City Limits Music Festival in Texas, and Mile High Music Festival presented by Kyocera in Denver.

The brand also is partnering with events outside of music, including a tie to the Publix Family Fitness Weekend presented by Gatorade, a 13-stop April-through-October series of sprint triathlons and other events.

In addition, Refreshing Ideas has sampled h20 at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camps, the Grammy Awards, comedy shows, charity fundraisers and other events.

As a small company, the two-year-old, privately held Refreshing Ideas is using sponsorship as a cost-effective platform to stake its territory and establish its brand.

“We are such a small company, and we are the first in the U.S. to market water in a paper package,” Atherton noted. “We had to find a way to make a big bang very quickly so if anyone follows us into this business we’ve already made our mark.

“Sponsorship provides us lots of media exposure that we could never afford.”

In addition to generating awareness and trial, h20 also is using sponsorship to gain the interest of prospective trade accounts, Atherton said.

“When you have 225,000 people at Lollapalooza drinking h20, it makes sense for a retailer to have it available. Having artists and celebrities drink the product is the best way to get attention, but this is all about getting distribution.”

The company is using sponsorship of the Publix Family Weekend to build relations with title sponsor Publix Super Markets, Inc. While the chain does not currently sell h20, Atherton hopes the sponsorship will change that.

“We’re not available at Publix, but we are getting a lot of requests from their customers as a result of the sponsorship,” she said.

The brand currently is sold through Sears Brands, LLC’s Kmart Superstores, Amazon.com and h20’s Web site, OneDrinkAtATime.com.

At many events with which it is involved, h20 focuses on sampling among celebrities, the media and other influencers. Its rights at the Mile High festival are for backstage sampling as the official water for bands and performers.

With larger deals, the company looks for on-site sales rights to help recoup some or all of its rights fees.

For example, Atherton noted, h20 has sales rights at Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza—both produced by C3 Presents—and expects to at least break even on the sponsorships.

“We are so small we can’t afford to do things for exposure alone. With something of this magnitude we have to get some sort of return on investment.”

The company focuses on events with recycling programs to support h20’s green positioning, she added. “We look for events that have a recycling program in place, or where we can do that easily.”

The company, which also sponsors green confabs and marketing conferences, is in negotiations for additional deals, Atherton said.