FIJI Water at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards with FIJI Water on Sunday in Beverly Hills. The Fiji Water ambassador, Los Angeles-based model Kelleth Cuthbert, is clearly visible (albeit off to one side) in red-carpet photos of Hollywood A-listers.

The marketing geniuses behind one of Kern County’s powerhouse brands have done it again.

What looked to many like an oddly prolific photobomber at Sunday's Golden Globes awards ceremony — a woman in a blue dress holding a tray of bottled water — was actually an ambassador for Fiji Water, one of many brands owned by local citrus and fruit grower The Wonderful Co.

The woman, Los Angeles-based model Kelleth Cuthbert, is clearly visible (albeit off to one side) in red-carpet photos of Hollywood A-listers such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Madden. Some among the Twitterati took to calling her the night's hero, apparently supposing her repeated appearances spoke to a dogged determination to steal the spotlight.

By night's end two new hashtags were lighting up social media: #fijiwatergirl and #fijigirl. Tweeted digital producer Brittany Van Horne: "My biggest claim to fame is getting a bottle of Fiji from the Fiji Water Girl before she went viral."

But the Fiji Water Girl's rise is less pluck than pay-to-play marketing. It's an example of a type of brand-building, or product placement, in which a company pays for the privilege of visibly associating itself with a higher-profile event or personality.

Bakersfield business and marketing consultant Marlene B. Heise, owner of Heise Media Group, called the move the latest success in Los Angeles-based Wonderful's pattern of pulling off unique and interesting marketing campaigns.

"I applaud them," Heise said. "I love brand-building and I respect (Wonderful co-owner and marketing chief) Lynda Resnick so much for her unique and creative ideas."

A spokesman for Wonderful confirmed the company had paid for the right to have Cuthbert in Sunday's red carpet photos, though he declined to state how much the opportunity cost. He said awards-show viewers can expect to see more of her in upcoming events.

"For more than a decade, FIJI Water has proudly maintained a presence at high-profile events, including major award shows, international film festivals and movie premieres," spokesman Mark Carmel wrote by email Monday. "As the official water sponsor of the Golden Globes, FIJI Water, along with its FIJI Brand Ambassadors, hydrated guests on the red carpet and during the star-studded show. FIJI Water will continue to hydrate more of Hollywood this coming awards season."

Resnick has scored big before. Her marketing team came up with the idea of naming mandarins "Cuties," then after a corporate divorce cost Wonderful that moniker, launched a new name, "Halos." She is also credited with promoting pomegranate juice as a highly nutritious alternative to other fruit drinks.

Wonderful employs thousands of people in Kern County. It has also invested heavily in local philanthropy and the lives of its farmworkers in Lost Hills and Delano.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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The Resnais, owners of Fiji Water:

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