The biggest winner of the night at the Golden Globe Awards may have been Fiji Water.
Thanks to the unexpected virality of a model hired to hold bottles of Fiji Water on the red carpet, the water company notched a Golden Globes record for earned impressions, according to marketing analytics firm Apex Marketing Group. To create the same level of buzz through traditional advertising, Apex says Fiji would have had to spend more than $12 million on advertising.
“Since this went viral it took the [brand] exposure to a new level not seen in prior Golden Globes,” Apex Marketing Group President Eric Smallwood told Yahoo Finance. “Every table had Fiji, Lindt chocolates and Moët strategically placed during the broadcast, but this was done in prior years as well.”
Rather, it was the photobombing performance of Fiji model Kelleth Cuthbert, who was caught in the background of red carpet photos of stars like Jamie Lee Curtis, Idris Elba and others, that took the internet by storm.
— E! News (@enews) January 7, 2019
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cuthbert hinted that it may not have been an accident and that she intentionally helped Fiji steal the show.
“It’s all strategic,” the model, who saw her instagram follower count grow by more than 60,000 to cross 120,000 total followers, told the Times. “You’ve got to angle.”
The angling paid off. In total, across television, radio, digital and social media mentions, Fiji Water earned what Apex calculates would have taken the equivalent of $12,006,579 in paid advertising spend from the start of the Golden Globes last night through 8 a.m. ET.
“They’ve reaped a lot of rewards off this,” Smallwood said.
In a nod to Cuthbert’s fame, even Fiji was getting in on the action with a meta compliment to its new star model in a tweet.
Not everyone was a fan of the stunt, however. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis voiced her frustration on Twitter for being photographed with the products in the background of her red carpet appearance. “I knew there was a photographer poised & I moved as I didn't want to be doing advertising for either," she wrote on Twitter. "The sponsors of events need to get permission from people before they try 2 take their picture with them."
Zack Guzman is a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.