They can be big, glamorous and great for promoting your brand – or hugely draining on time, staff and dollars.
They can also be smaller, regular events aiming to build customer loyalty over time with a package that is more manageable – and perhaps relying on shared resources and promotion with other wineries or tourism operators.
Successful events, whether large or small, have several characteristics in common:
- A strong theme and image that accurately reflect the brand principles of the wine company and/or region and are relevant and attractive to the target audience
- A clear point of difference, with a ‘unique selling proposition’
- Impeccable planning, proficient project management, realistic timeframes and close monitoring against the scheduled plan
- Adequate budget – including sufficient funds for marketing and promotion
- Strategic, well planned marketing, advertising and promotion
- Risk management and contingency plans
- A pre-defined evaluation process, to demonstrate return on investment for sponsors and participants
There are several types of events you can focus on, each with specific criteria for evaluation and opportunity for generating revenue and brand awareness.
This could include dinners, concerts, art shows, or specialised tastings. Depending on the scale of the event, you might choose to work with an event specialist (especially if you’re hosting a major concert), outsource catering and enlisting the services of external hospitality staff. Think carefully about your annual calendar – do you want to become a regular special dining/concert/exhibition venue, or is your idea a one-off to promote something (a product) in particular?
If you’re planning one-off or regular concerts you’ll need to have at least one of two things: the funding to bring in high-profile, drawcard acts or ready access to excellent local acts. Do your homework – research the acts that consistently make good concert ticket sales and don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who are informed. Talk to concert promoters, but don’t ignore the music reviewer from your local press, the local radio DJs or staff from local music stores – they generally know what’s going on.
Offering your venue as a function centre can also work well if you’ve got the space. Weddings and corporate functions in wineries are an area that can generate significant revenue if they’re well managed.
Most regions have signature festivals and events that offer you the opportunity to participate in some way. Sometimes you will form part of a trail (e.g. Yarra Valley’s Grape Grazing Festival) whereby you will team up with a food and entertainment provider, or you might work co-operatively with other wineries to sell wine at a designated location during a festival (e.g. Barossa Vintage Festival).
The wine industry hosts many State and national trade events that offer the opportunity to showcase your wine to consumers and trade alike. Wine Australia’s Trade and Sommelier Immersion Program is one such example. Participation in these events requires significant forward planning to evaluate the costs and benefits and ascertain realistic outcomes. Done correctly, you can make a major impact in a short space of time.
Most major cities host wine and food festivals that offer opportunities for you to pour wine for tasting and sales (e.g. Tasting Australia Producer’s Picnic, CheeseFest, Good Food & Wine Shows). Be aware that the further away from your home base you venture, the less likely you are to feature prominently. Do your homework carefully and be realistic about your outcomes.
The key to success in off-site events is to prepare thoroughly and actively market and promote the event yourself. Don’t just rely on the organising committee to drive people to your stand (in fact, consider being part of the organising committee). If you’re going to participate in a major festival at an off-site location, it’s a good idea to consider incorporating a strong point of difference into your offering for the day that will help you stand out from the crowd and attract a greater share of festival goers.