AriZona Creates an Unforgettable Experience with its 25th Anniversary Pop-Up


In 1992, Don Vultaggio and John Ferolito, two Long Island-based beverage distributors, witnessed the rise in popularity of juice and tea drinks (like Snapple) and decided to join the fray. Together they founded a beverage company that sold ice tea in a 23-ounce can for 99 cents and named their product AriZona.

Don’s wife Ilene, a graphic designer and artist, created the original (lemon) can’s southwestern design, based on the couple’s Santa Fe-inspired home in Rockaway, Queens (which Ilene decorated). Later, the iconic cherry blossom trees on the brand’s green tea can was inspired by one of their children’s coloring books.

Over a quarter of a century passed, and, naturally, the brand went through several changes. The founders had a falling out in 2012 and Vultaggio bought out Ferolito’s interest in the company. The product line has increased; now, in addition to tea and juice (sometimes combined), the company also sells energy drinks, flavored water, sodas, and a sports drink. The Vultaggio’s sons, Spencer and Wesley, are taking over the company.

However, some things have remained very much the same. AriZona’s beverages are still sold in those gargantuan 23-ounce cans and the vast majority still carry the price tag of just 99 cents.

Over the years, as the brand grew in popularity, it did so largely through word of mouth, because Don Vultaggio eschewed most advertising.

“Our father has never believed in traditional advertising and instead opted to grow the brand organically letting the product and packaging speak for itself. In doing so, I believe he built a stronger brand with staying power,” said Wesley Vultaggio, Chief Creative Officer of Arizona Beverages, in an interview with Forbes.

Photo Credit: Forbes

“He maybe put up a couple billboards in the mid ’90s. So, we’ve never really relied on that. One of his mottos is, the cost savings that we’ve incurred through not advertising we pass along to the customer,” said Spencer Vultaggio, Chief Marketing Officer of AriZona Beverages, in an interview with Event Marketer.

So, to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, the brothers decided to do something a little out of the ordinary: advertise … sort of. Actually, the company created a pop-up experience that simultaneously celebrated its history while embracing the future, which is not an easy task. It was called GB99 (short for “Great Buy 99”). 

“When we first started, we knew we wanted to do some sort of pop-up experience, but we weren’t sure exactly where we were going to take it,” said Spencer. “At first, we were thinking of doing something more like a party or an event, night by night, maybe with performances. But we’ve seen what other brands have done in the space in the past – larger brands that spend a lot of money on this type of stuff – and we didn’t want to compete in that world. We wanted to touch people a little more intimately. Wesley and I work closely with the brand, so we had the opportunity to be more creative and hands-on with the project.”

The initial aspect was a storefront that prominently featured a neon “Great Buy 99¢” sign, similar to the label that adorns many AriZona cans. Half of the store was, in fact, a 99-cent store – because it exclusively sold AriZona beverages. The other half, however, contained a wide variety of products, including T-shirts, hoodies, bags, jackets, hats, crewnecks, button-downs, custom Zippo lighters, AriZona-scented air fresheners, and more (most of which is still available for purchase on the company’s website). There were even snacks available for sale, such as all-natural gummies, beef jerky, and sour cotton candy.

Photo Credit: Cool Hunting

 “We’ve made T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, towels, for many, many years. We not only use them for giveaways for our sales people, but we also had a thriving e-commerce business where we sold green tea-related things and checkerboards, kind of playing with our branding, which we found people enjoyed. We’d get a lot of feedback from people saying, we want more stuff from you guys,” said Wesley. “Circling back to the pop-up, it became a good opportunity for us to dive more deeply into that world where we always wanted to play. Spencer and I like fashion, we pride ourselves on being fashionable guys, and we wanted to bring that fashion-forwardness to our brand.”

Interestingly, the majority of these items did not feature the AriZona logo. Instead, the designs on the shirts, swimsuits, shoes, etc. were inspired by the artistic design of the cans.

“We did have lower-priced items that have AriZona [on them] and I think people will enjoy wearing it throughout the summer because they are proud of being an AriZona fan. But some of the higher-priced things didn’t really say AriZona at all,” said Spencer. “With other brands that would be selling merchandise, it would be labeled. That would be the whole purpose of a brand selling something. We didn’t look at it like that. We think our imagery and our aesthetic speaks for itself and is representative of the brand and is fashionable at the same time. If you look at our G99, it’s checkerboard with yellow. You wouldn’t necessarily know it’s AriZona, but then when you say it’s AriZona it makes perfect sense. And our cherry blossom, of course, is synonymous with AriZona. And fashionable, too.”

The pop up also offered some exclusive items in limited quantities, such as Nike Air Jordan 1’s with custom designs by Relevant Customs. These shoes were part of a daily giveaway, where the first 50 people lined up were entered in a drawing and one walked away with the shoes.


Photo Credit: Sneaker Bar Detroit

The, people who continued through to the back of the store found that there was even more to the pop up awaiting them: a break from the hustle and bustle of the crowded marketplace. Out back was a secret garden featuring a koi pond, cherry blossom trees, a gold pagoda, and rock pathways. Here visitors would find the New York City tattoo artists JonBoy and Rob Green giving out free AriZona-themed flash art, free AriZona beverages, and custom patches that could be sewn onto recently purchased items.

By basically bringing the bottle of their green tea to life, AriZona created yet one more way to surprise and connect with fans.

“There are few brands like ours that people have a nostalgic connection to,” said Wesley. “You can talk to anybody, and they remember the first time that they saw our brand, our big cans, in the early ’90s. People have memories of growing up with the brand. It’s just one of those brands that evokes a lot of nostalgia, and we wanted to bring that to life. And the best way to do that is in some sort of experiential way, where you could have anything and everything you could remember from your childhood – whether it’s beach balls or pool floats or rolling papers. We included everything we could possibly get our hands on that we felt would honor our brand. We branded them sometimes with AriZona and sometimes more subtly, which I think people respected and liked. And with the green tea garden, kind of bringing that magical green tea bottle that we launched in the late ’90s to life, became a big nostalgic moment for people, too.”

Want to translate an emotional connection with your brand into an experiential pop up? Our Event Architecture experts are ready to help. Give us a call at 972-343-9433.