Helping to raise the profile of South Africa with top sommeliers with the Sommelier Cup is the campaign Jo Wehring, UK head of Wines of South Africa, is most proud of as it allowed leading sommelier talent from all over the world to travel to the country and see the wineries and taste the wines for themselves. She also shines the spotlight on Tesco’s pop-up bar for its Finest range of wines as the campaign she wished she had done.
Talk us through your favourite campaign…
We launched the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup in 2010, to coincide with the FIFA World Cup, which was held in South Africa that year. We wanted to create a competition that would attract the attention of the world’s leading sommeliers, in the main export markets that we focus on, and engage with them in a way that allowed us to highlight all the amazing wines that South Africa was producing. We also wanted to create a platform that offered them the opportunity to really get to know the country and become South African experts.
It was originally intended to be a one off campaign, but it worked so well that we decided to run it every three years. 2019 will see the launch of the fourth Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup.
What was the strategy behind it?
The on-trade is an essential sector for selling premium South African wines and this activity worked across all markets and, while focused on education, offered a fun way to experience South Africa. We wanted to immerse the sommeliers in South Africa and create life long ambassadors.
How did you go about pulling it together?
Each of the markets that Wines of South Africa operates in ran the first round of the competition independently, working with trade press and sommelier associations to spread the word. We created educational materials to support the competition entrants in their studies, to ensure everyone had access to the latest information about the wines, regions and trends. The winner from each country round was announced and a trip to South Africa co-ordinated for all the winners. This included a week-long visit, covering a wide range of regions and producers to help the contestants to really get to know South Africa, before taking part in the grand final to find the overall winner.
What was the impact of the campaign?
The standard of entrants has been consistently high. In the UK we’ve seen participation from many of the countries top sommeliers from some of the best-known restaurants, and that is true of the other markets too. We’re now at a point where to be a leading sommelier you need to know South African wines and that wasn’t the case 10 years ago. In the UK, especially, where many of our sommeliers are very passionate and knowledgeable about European wines this activity provides a powerful opportunity to focus on South Africa.
What lessons have you learnt from doing this campaign for other initiatives?
The sommelier community is notoriously tricky to engage with, they are extremely busy and demand for their time is high. The Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup taps into the thirst for knowledge that top sommeliers have and their competitive nature. Bringing together like-minded people from across the globe works very well as shared experience in different markets is something that the group always enjoys.
The campaign I wish I had done….
Explain the campaign and what it was for?
Last year Tesco launched the Tesco Finest Pop-Up Wine Bar for two weeks in a Soho location to market its premium own label wine range. It was a strong mix of experiential marketing to consumers and media relations.
What is it about this campaign that you particularly like?
This was a high impact way to showcase the Tesco Finest range to the public in a very stylish environment that adds gravitas to the premium nature of the range. With the full range of 70 wines available by the glass it offered a great opportunity for consumers to explore wines that they wouldn’t usually try, with advice offered from Tesco experts. Taking the wines out of the usual off-trade environment and creating an on-trade experience was a clever way to alter perceptions of a supermarket own-label range.
Why do you think it was successful?
As well as providing a quality experience for consumers, encouraging trial, offering education and changing perceptions of the wines, the campaign generated a large amount of press coverage ensuring the impact went far further than the activity itself.
What lessons could other businesses take from this idea?
Taking your product into a completely different environment can change how potential customers perceive it. Giving consumers a positive experience and allowing them to explore products they wouldn’t usually try can broaden their horizons.