Sponsoring Events: Should Booze Brands Pay?


by Rebekah Polster (@BekinBklyn)

Wine and liquor brands are bombarded just about every week to sponsor an event, whether it’s an art opening hosted by a friend of a friend’s friend or the Grammy’s. These “intimate” events range in grandeur and product amount, but at the end of the day, what does your booze client really get out of it?

This time of year especially, I’m on high alert – I find myself constantly checking out the brands both listed on the step-and-repeats and sitting on tables being sipped by the stars. I’ve spotted wines being poured at Fashion week and anticipate plenty of Oscar party step-and-repeats featuring liquor brands. But I’m in the biz– it’s my job to notice what’s being poured where.

So, do the normal folk actually notice what Champagne sits on the tables at the Golden Globes every year? (It’s Moët Chandon by the way.)

My clients have mostly been sponsors of low-budget events, such as a store opening, something at Fashion Week, or at a friend (of a friend’s) art show. However, big budget events require booze, too. Not only are those events requesting the wines and spirits, but participation often commands a hefty price for the sponsorship. Now, not only are you on the hook for product donation, but also payment, ahem, I mean donation.



Let’s start with the big guys. To get your brand’s name on the step-and-repeat for one of these larger events, it will cost anywhere from $25,000-35,000. To get your product into a goody bag? That’ll be another $10,000, please. To have your brand’s name in the title of the event? Priceless. But seriously? Somewhere in the range of $50,000. And don’t forget, the bottles upon bottles of booze cost money too. Did I mention, you’re also responsible for POS materials and making sure your brand is looking hot? Ca-ching!

So, what is the return on investment?

For these big-budget events, it’s all about impressions. The sponsors can say that thousands to millions of people will see the brand, and the taste-makers/celebrities will be sipping them. To sweeten the deal, they usually throw in some tickets to the event for the clients and brand reps to attend. Always a bonus.

And think about it: if your brand’s name is on the step and repeat, and celebrities are photographed in front of it, that image will travel the world of online media, make the rounds and get in front of the eyeballs of millions of people. True, they might not necessarily notice the name behind the celeb, but it’s there, it’s in print, er, online, and will be around whenever someone does a search for that celebrity for ever more. For years, Chopin Vodka sponsored the Santa Barbara Film Awards and some of the largest celebrities were shot in front of the Chopin backdrop, from Angelina Jolie, to Penelope Cruz to Sandra Bullock… and when you search for their names, there is always an image of the Chopin logo behind them!

What if a brand is on the smaller side, with a smaller budget, and pouring is the only option. What happens then? Is it worth it?

As someone who has stood at a table and poured during a consumer event, I can say that the feedback is 50/50. Often times you just get people who want their wine and then they’re done with you. However, there is that beacon of hope when someone actually shows interest in what they’re drinking. Many times, this kind of interest in the booze comes from paid attendance – if consumers pay to attend an event, their more likely to be interested in what they’re ingesting. Usually, if it’s a free event they could care less. According to a colleague, about 60% of consumers who attend a paid event where she is pouring a client’s wine show interest in the wine and want to learn more. Where you might lose in impressions, you gain in a person, perhaps, going to their liquor store and asking for your brand.

Like any good marketing event, you need to know your audience. Who is the brand’s key demographic? What are their interests? Would the brand be better suited to Fashion Week? Or an art opening? Whatever the event might be, your message needs to be uniform.

It’s interesting to understand basic sponsorship – where the sponsor is coming from and where you’re coming from. At the end of the day, you want to make the most of any event for your client and get your wine or liquor in the spotlight. The brand needs to be visible and identifiable, in order to grow its following. If you have the cash and happen to spend $50,000 in the process, so be it. At least you get to see some celebs walk down the red carpet.

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