Towards the end of 2023, Clearer Water announced they had become the water and hydration partner for all of the Northern Ireland football teams for the next ten years. The premium, traceable and ethical bottled water brand has been expanding its sports sponsorship package so we sat down with Ross Lazaroo-Hood, their co-founder and global CEO to find out more about the move.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My current role is Co-Founder/Global CEO/Co-Chairman of the. Clearer Group, which includes Clearer Water, Clearer Twist and Soilèir Packing & Distribution.
Previously the last 20 plus years has been in London within the global Insurance market. A career that started as a junior claims broker through to being class underwriter at one of the main Lloyd’s of London syndicates which led into me Founding the insurance group Landmark Holding Group and Landmark Underwriting. I was delighted to be granted Freedom of the City London in 2021 and President of the London based Westminster Wanderers football club. Outside of work I invest my own time into the RUSA Foundation a charity that I Co-founded to provide a better future to those in grass roots competing sports and underprivileged families and disadvantaged children.
What do you do in your current role at Clearer Water?
I tasked myself with an ambitious programme of growth and international expansion to build on the successes currently enjoyed by the company’s award-winning beverage portfolio across the island of Ireland. Building our brand awareness and there is no better place to build it through sport and its loyal supporters.
What partnerships do you have in sport?
We are blessed to have an amazing family of brand ambassadors and partnerships;
We are the water and hydration partner of all the Northern Ireland National football teams for the next 10 years plus the next 10 years as the title sponsor of the Irish Football Association’s Clearer Water Irish Cup,
Title sponsor of the Clearer Water Antrim Coast Half Marathon which is the no. 1 half in U.K. & Ireland plus 2nd fastest in the world, we have also brought in Brand Ambassador Claire Taggart who is the Number 1 Boccia gold medallist Paralympian . Long-term Principal sponsor of the Irish Premiership Champions and my hometown’s Larne football club. Finally principal sponsor of the Coopah Refugee Run Club which is an amazing community led initiative.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
I’m a consistently early riser, starting with breakfast for my three boys getting them ready for school, the working day can be at home or the office getting started on my overnight emails, managing any team issues and the progress/performance reports related to delivering our service levels. The week could be see me in London at my Insurance company or flying back to Northern Ireland to visit our water plant, the team, our clients, or the brand ambassadors. Although there is no real time structure or working days for me as being a business owner I work constantly, and I love having the variety that comes with different roles and an international platform.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted Clearer Water to be involved with sport?
Myself and my fellow Co-Founder were asked to acquire Clearer Water and we knew the team were brilliant, the brand needed investment, rebranding plus a plan for growth with brand awareness programme implemented. This led to a decision to embrace sport in our marketing plans, also I enjoyed playing rugby throughout my youth so sport was important. We see many examples of sporting collaborations where good partners grow together creating lasting impressions on those potential customers whilst building trust with existing ones. Endorsements bring visibility and credibility but only when there are similar values and commitments.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
We are committed to positively impacting our community, as well as wider society. Clearer Water is “The Water That Helps People.” We employ a diverse mixed ability workforce and through our inclusive employment practices we will drive transformative social impact by closing the gap on disability inclusion in the workplace and we are proud that our team gets a chance to not shine but actively contribute.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
I wouldn’t say I have failed at anything; I would say that I had to work differently being diagnosed with dyslexia from an early age. 1 in 5 people in the world are dyslexic which means that your brain sees the world differently. As many with dyslexia I am much better at being curious and exploring new ideas plus more likely to be found thinking differently. Being more creative and seeing solutions quicker. I would also say it is my superpower and one that I am very proud to have had throughout my career giving an extra benefit to be an entrepreneur. Having skills like big-picture thinking, lateral thinking and problem solving is a blessing when you are founding any business and bringing about strategic growth.
You have recently signed the biggest sponsorship in Northern Irish football history – 10 years? How come it was for so long?
We believe in long-term partnerships, creating endless connections together is a better way to build both a brand plus a partnership through joint up strategies that change together and brings opportunities. Also, if we put our name and brand into a partnership we want the supporters to see we bring a commitment for the long-term to their team/sport, we don’t exploit or cut and run.
What are you excited about in regards to your new partnership with the Northern Irish FA?
This is a fantastic moment for Clearer Water and it’s own team, the company’s ethos of producing water that helps people is to be celebrated and with a long term commitment in place we’re looking forward to working with the teams and management over the coming years to raise the profile of our brand and the historic Clearer Water Irish Cup.
How are you going to make the Irish Cup attractive to fans and new audiences through Clearer Water?
The Irish Cup is steeped in heritage and a huge part of Northern Irish football. We are also excited to be partnering on sustainability and product development initiatives with the Irish FA which I can’t give out any spoilers at the moment. As I say we believe in being there for the long-term, so we want to connect Clearer Water to fans and their teams through this prestigious plus historic football competition for the next 10 years.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to partner with sports athletes or organisations?
What can I say but make sure you are actively promoting your company/product before looking for sponsorships/brand ambassadors. Start thinking about the type of sports team / person who embodies your product/values plus the amount of content that you both want from the promotions, also the length of time be committed to achieve both partners goals.