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Pro Golfer Michelle Wie West on COVID-19's impact on her sport and how she got into the water business

Michelle Wie West, Pro Golfer and Blair Bentham, OXIGEN CEO join Yahoo Finance to discuss how their oxygenated water company has taken off.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: We are joined by Blair Bentham. He is the Oxygen CEO. This is a bottled water that is infused with oxygen and other things to try to enhance your performance and how you feel. And Michelle Wie West, pro golfer, is also joining us. And she is one of the folks who has partnered with this brand. Michelle, I do want to start with you. I'm always curious when we talk to athletes, about how they make these decisions of who they are going to partner with. Obviously, it's your brand, it's your name that you're putting out there. So how did you come to this decision?

MICHELLE WIE WEST: For me, I just fell in love the product. I fell in love with the team that was working on this and the other fellow investors we have a close relationship with, and mostly, I was really, really impressed with the science behind it. Because you hear of all these claims at hydration companies make, but there's actually published science behind this.

And also the sustainability behind these bottles. These bottles are 100% rPET bottles. They are looking to close the loop. There is no new plastics that are entering the system, which I think is so amazing. I've never heard of this before. And I just, I just loved it. I received some of the waters from our friends that drank it and immediately I reached out to Blair and I was like, let's do something.

MELODY HAHM: Hi, Michelle, Melody here. I'm a Korean-American, I grew up watching you, I was always so proud that you were ripping it on a golf course and holding your own among a sea of white men. So thank you so much for really leading the way there. When you think about the game of golf during this time and how it's really been able to attract new audiences, perhaps more people who look like us, a younger demo, are you quite surprised that COVID was the catalyst for this new activity? How do you anticipate it being sustained perhaps after the pandemic is over?

MICHELLE WIE WEST: For sure. I mean, being a Korean-American, being a minority, it was truly important for me to see someone that looked like me playing the sport. For me, it was Se-Ri Pak and Grace Park who I really looked up to and you know if it wasn't for them, I don't even know that golf would be in my mind to do as a professional sport.

So I just think it's so great. You are seeing more faces out there. You are seeing players from other countries winning. And I think it's so amazing, because takes it back to the ground, the roots level back in their country. And you'll see more kids starting the game. So I just, I think with COVID and everyone being at home and having more time to think and it's actually created so many great discussions. In our sport, we're having these town hall meetings to try and figure out, how can we get this game to be more inclusive, to be more diverse, to get more kids from different backgrounds to join the game and to sustain that.

Not only entering the sport, but continuing to participate and sustain that long career. And with our tour especially, we want a place that little girl's dream of entering, of this is my dream and being a golf pro. And we want to create an environment that welcomes that, that cultivates those dreams.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Blair, I'm going to date myself here, because I'm a Margaret Cho fan, and that's what? 20, 30 years ago when she first burst on the scene, and in some ways, talked about being a role model for people. And it's still taken that many years for things to change. So I remember her talking about being a front and center Korean-American on television. She'd go to radio stations, she talks about, and they'd say, in your native tongue, tell us what it's like. And her native tongue is English!


ADAM SHAPIRO: How do we get to that point and how long until we get to that point where what she first experienced, what you still experience is no longer this discussion?

MICHELLE WIE WEST: It's funny, I still get asked that question. They're like, oh my God, he speaks really good English. I'm like, I'm an American citizen, I was born here. And it's amazing that to this day, this still happens. But I think one of the really amazing things that our tour does, is that we have such an international tour, so already you have players maybe not knowing as many cultures entering the tour and just by being on our tour, we're visiting so many places.

Like I had never been to Singapore, I'd never been to Thailand. I've been to Dubai. And just by immersing ourselves in those cultures for those weeks, I have learned so much about the world. And it just takes us everywhere. And I think it's amazing that these countries a lot of American players are coming over too, so we're bringing a little bit of our culture over. So I think more of a international melting pot, just really allowing people to embrace different cultures, experience different cultures, will I think hopefully, bring things together.

JULIE HYMAN: Blair, I do want to bring you in. So I to ask you a two-part question here. First of all, what kind of demand have you been seeing for the product during this time when a lot of people are stuck at home? And secondly, how important a part of your strategy is it to partner with athletes? And what has not done for your brand profile?

BLAIR BENTHAM: Sure, Julie. I think during COVID, really since March, we've just, we've had an incredible growth for Oxygen right across the country both in distribution, but also just consumer buy in, consumer choice for the brand. I think people are mindful during a global pandemic what they're putting on their bodies, what they're consuming.

And you wouldn't want to say necessarily we've benefited because of COVID with the human tragedy of it, but I think just the shift of people en masse being very mindful of their purchasing both from the functionality of Oxygen just being a healthy product, but also with the environmental impact that Michelle referenced being with our bottles made from 100% recycled plastic. I think the two combined have just been the perfect storm for people to really move towards our brand, which has been very exciting.

The aspect of having Michelle involved as a as an elite athlete is just amazing for the brand. Oxygen, whilst we're not a sports hydration product, we're a lifestyle brand, Michelle embodies so much of what the brand is about in regards to performance, being the top of your game. But really with Michelle's involvement, we're as excited to have her involved as an elite athlete, but just as much as being a new mom, being a wife and a businesswoman, a philanthropist, a community activist.

And really her as a 360 degree person. And I think really speaking to the female consumer, speaking to an Asian consumer, a minority consumer, we're water and we're oxygen, so we exclude nobody as a customer. And having that broad base and Michelle's voice behind Oxygen is just, it's fantastic, and we're really excited for the months and years ahead.

JULIE HYMAN: Two things that everyone needs for sure. Thanks so much, Blair. Blair Bentham, Oxygen CEO, as well as Michelle Wie West, who is, of course, a pro golfer Thanks to both very much.