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Engage Your Customers and Build Relationships Through Event Sponsorships

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Sharing an experience creates new and loyal customers. 

By Melanie Young

 

Sponsoring events can bring new customers to your wine brand through product sampling and social engagement. What’s more, events help connect to your community and communicate your company story and core values. While most sponsorships involve product donations, larger events usually require a financial commitment, and there are always add-on costs, from shipping logistics to staff time.

Here are tips to get the most from wine sponsorships.

Streamline the Process and Target Your Support 

Establish criteria and a vetting process to review and respond to inquiries. A major community presence in Silicon Valley, J Lohr Vineyards & Wines is approached by many nonprofits for donations and support. The company’s philanthropic priorities address the health and well-being of children and families, music and the performing arts, wine/appellation and regional education initiatives. “We formalized our vetting process by creating a microsite on jlohr.com, called Community Support, that details the information we seek for mission-driven alliances. By creating a clearinghouse for objectively evaluating these opportunities, we set expectations for mutually rewarding partnerships and donations that we hope will create a ripple effect,” says Cynthia Lohr, co-owner and chief brand officer.

Focused sponsorships benefit smaller producers and startup brands with limited production and budgets. “We look for bespoke, high-end event sponsorships with brand-aligned partners/businesses that require no more than $3,000 plus product fee. We aim for deliverables, such as branding on all printed materials, social media tags and mentions, and professional photography assets that we own and that may be used at our discretion. We also sponsor charitable events that benefit women and other less represented socioeconomic groups, who need financial support, through our donations of silent auction items, product and event support such as pouring our wines at their functions,” says Rachel Martin, founder/CEO of Oceano Wines in San Luis Obispo.

Oceano Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Display at the Supper Club
Oceano Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Display at the Supper Club

In addition to looking at how an event’s mission and theme align with your brand’s ethos and target audience, ask how your wines will be promoted in event materials and social media. Confirm the dimensions of your tasting area, glassware and supplies provided and what enhancements you can bring. If you are providing servers, confirm their pouring passes as well as any complimentary guest tickets you will receive. Get everything in writing and ask for a post event report and access to photos.

Look For Like-Minded Collaborations

Rather than providing one-off support for an event, ask the host organization how your brand can further the relationship by participating in activities for major donors. Identify mutual interests, such as sustainability and social impact, and discuss collaborating on social media and education. Ask for exclusivity wherever possible.

“Seek out like-minded brands with complementary audiences in areas such as fashion and art,” recommends Karen Brennan, founder of Prosper PR. “Our wine client, La Linda, whose target audience is women, sponsored in-store retail events, hosted by sommelier Regine Rousseau, at fashion house Veronica Beard.” 

Use sponsorships as a springboard for other activities. This is useful for larger wine and food festivals where one brand can be lost among many. 

“At this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, we created multiple touchpoints beyond our tasting booth for our clients, Luigi Bosca and La Linda, including two curated dinners hosted by celebrity chefs from Food Network,” says Brennan. “We also partnered with chef-influencer, Ashton Keefe, and photographer, Carter Fish, to capture client images throughout the week, which we can use for social media throughout the year.

“We tie events back to sales by creating ‘where-to-buy cards’ to hand out at the booth and reaching out to off-premises retailers in the surrounding area in advance to let them know what we are doing so they can bring in the wine and hopefully set up displays.”   

Create a Buzzworthy Destination 

Use attractive visual presentations and interactivity to draw people to your space; make it camera-ready for social media sharing and to encourage email signups.

Adam Sweders
Adam Sweders

“I tell producers, ‘Leave your dirt and tech sheets at the door. Think engagement,’” says Adam Sweders, founder of WineRival in Chicago, which brings together the sommelier community and wine aficionados for a blind-tasting tournament. “One year, Chateau St. Michelle brought a face painter that drew people to their tasting area, and Jordan Winery offered a blind tasting guessing game. At this year’s October 15 event, DAOU Winery is sponsoring a spa lounge.”

La Crema Winery created a traveling “Tasting Experience,” to enhance the brand’s presence at select events. According to Shilah Salmon, senior vice president of marketing, “We provide an elevated experience to our consumer base if they can’t travel to Sonoma. Awareness tied with trial will lead to purchase and ultimately brand loyalty. In 2022, we surveyed 450 consumers on tour and found that 40% who came in were not aware of La Crema, while 75% were ‘very likely’ to purchase after tasting and 54% were ‘very likely’ to recommend [the brand] to a friend.”

Engagement beyond your winery’s doors can be a powerful way to attract new customers. Focus on strategic collaborations with like-minded organizations. By expanding your reach through sponsorships, you’ll find audiences who can become loyal brand ambassadors.

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Melanie Young [Bobby Ryan Portraits]
Melanie Young [Bobby Ryan Portraits]

Melanie Young

Melanie Young is a certified specialist of wine and co-host/writer for The Connected Table LIVE, a global podcast featuring conversations with thought leaders in wine, food, spirits & hospitality. Her articles have appeared in Wine Industry News, Wine Enthusiast and Seven Fifty Daily. She travels frequently to report on wine regions, people and events. IG@theconnectedtable

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