Volvic is investing £3m in a celebrity-backed campaign to provide millions of litres of water to Africa in what has been billed as the UK's first ethical initiative by a major water company.

Details of the 1L = 10L For Africa push have been unveiled, news of which was first revealed in The Grocer in July.

For every litre of Volvic natural or flavoured water sold, owner Danone Waters will pledge 10 more to Ghana, Malawi, Zambia and Mali. The company will also supply mechanised pumps in collaboration with Unicef charity World Vision.

"For the first three years we will guarantee six billion litres of water and by 2009 we hope to move into Ethiopia and Niger," said Danone Waters' marketing director Patrick Kalotis.

The five-month campaign launches on 23 March, which is World Water Day, and it will be anchored around press and poster drives. Terrestrial TV ads will be backed up by a celebrity, who is yet to be decided.

"The celebrity should fit in with the idea of the charity link, be down to earth and talented rather than an ephemeral name from a talent show. They must connect with the concept rather than be an A-lister," he said.

"We need to be reasonably subtle with communication: This is much more worthy and serious than just selling Volvic. Retailers are excited about sustainability and will look to drive their own credentials with a brand as big as Volvic."

Kalotis hoped the push would increase the company's UK annual growth by about 10% or 13% and "deseasonalise" water sales, which peak in the summer months.

Customers would "hopefully buy with the purpose of helping Africa, not just when it is hot and they are thirsty," added Kalotis. Similar campaigns in France last year and in Germany in 2005, boosted sales by about 13%.

Volvic is the UK's number one bottled water, he said, which gave it the edge over smaller bottled water brands such as Belu and One, which donate profits to Africa.

"They are small, regional and don't have our stature to commit the budget for fully mechanised pumps that will last 20 years."