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Expert Editorial: Promote your wine brand with sport

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The role of the “influencer” has and will disrupt the sponsorship and marketing of almost every industry. Wine is no different.

By Ishveen Jolly

Alcohol and sport have always been closely linked. At the most basic level, all kinds of alcoholic beverages are enjoyed while watching all kinds of sports. As a result, alcohol brands have long been associated with sports culture. Sponsoring an athlete or team can help cement this bond and make alcohol brands more attractive to consumers.

This applies to every level of the game. Alcohol categories are one of the first sponsorships that teams and sporting events try to fill because the products for the partnership are authentic. Sponsored beverages and brands may be served in hospitality suites, concession stands and spectator bars. Interesting promotions can be planned for fans (e.g. winning a bottle of wine for a captain’s hat-trick). For many B and C league teams that rely on local fans to attend local games, being associated with these competitions and celebrations is a great opportunity for local brands.

Jacquie Faldetta, golfer and influencer supporting a L'Ecole n°41 campaign.
Jacquie Faldetta, golfer and influencer supporting a L’Ecole n°41 campaign.

Additionally, athletes are among the most popular and often respected people in society, so their support can go a long way in helping alcohol brands improve their public image. In today’s world, the role of social media simply cannot be ignored, and as athletes often have some of the biggest followers in the world, alcohol brands can use their influence to reach a wider audience. For brands, producers, wineries, commentators, and anyone looking to increase sales or exposure, collaborating with athletes can help target specific demographics.

For their part, professional athletes seek sponsorships from brands they feel align with their personal values ​​and lifestyle. For many wine brands meet these criteria.

And so to the wine

Wine is sociable, stylish and fun; it can also be elitist. By supporting the right brand, an athlete or team can connect with their fans on a deeper level. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, athletes are realizing the importance of supporting products their fans can relate to. In the world of professional sports sponsorship, wine is becoming increasingly popular among athletes looking for the right brand.

Nick Troutman, World Athlete Champion, World Cup Winner, North American Champion and 5-time National Whitewater Kayaking Champion.  Seen here supports Winc
Nick Troutman, World Athlete Champion, World Cup Winner, North American Champion and 5-time National Whitewater Kayaking Champion. Seen here supports Winc

Sponsorships can involve a single interaction or an ongoing relationship that spans multiple outcomes. For the athlete it can be anything from unique social media post or a public appearance (either online or in person) to ongoing brand promotion. Conversely, some alcohol brands have been known to sponsor birthday parties or other celebrations, thereby associating themselves with the sporting lifestyle of celebrities. The same principles can also be applied on a smaller scale.

One of the most interesting sports that has shown a strong relationship with the industry is the National Basketball Association. NBA All-Star player Josh Hart, for example, is a big wine lover (in fact, he has one Instagram dedicated to sharing his favorite bottles). And the NBA has a thriving (albeit unofficial) wine club — as evidenced by the hundreds of bottles shipped to the league’s “bubble” (the sports complex in Orlando, Fla. that safely housed the teams for the 2020 season).

Stars like three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade have been at the forefront of the NBA’s wine obsession for years. But the players don’t just drink wine among themselves anymore; They channel their personal passions to make the industry more inclusive. Hart established a Diversity in Wine fellowship program to encourage this Educational and career opportunities, including WSET certification for people from different backgrounds to enter the industry. This can only be good for the wine overall and would not have been possible without the influence of the athletes.

Three-time NBA champion and Miami Heat captain Udonis Haslem has partnered with Wine Access. In a podcast he discusses the trends and interests of NBA stars for their different grape varieties or regions. That simply wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago, but does indicate the expanding profile of wine as a sought-after industry.

Subscriptions and endorsements

Another indicator of the role athletes can play as influencers for wine brands is Winc’s campaign in the US. Winc is the premier wine club in America and offers a wide variety of different wines for tasting through its subscription service. Popular with craft beer lovers, subscription services are starting to boom worldwide for wine, spirits and other beverages. For Winc, supporting athletes through social media has been their most powerful marketing tool. Athletes were hired to support the business and sales just skyrocketed.

US National Field Hockey Player Will Holt endorses a Winc campaign
US National Field Hockey Player Will Holt endorses a Winc campaign

The role of the “influencer” has and will disrupt the sponsorship and marketing of almost every industry. Wine is no different. The challenge is to see how the premium end reacts or engages. Exclusivity has always been key for certain wine brands, but that hasn’t stopped them from sponsoring or promoting in the past. They’ve always been incredibly picky about the type of event they sponsor or the advertising they produce. This selectivity is no doubt applied to the influencer route they choose to take, but we wouldn’t be surprised if athletes were at the top of that list.

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Ishveen Jolly is a trailblazer in the sports marketing industry who has built OpenSponsorship.com into the world’s largest marketplace connecting brands with athletes for digital marketing campaigns. Her awards include being named to Forbes 30U30 Sports list, Inc’s Top 100 Female Founders list and raising over $5 million for the company including from NBA team owners, athletes, notable VCs and her alma mater Oxford University.

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