There is something very different about this new Formula 1 season. For a start Lewis Hamilton looks like he is going to have to work a lot harder to keep himself at the front of the grid, and if he ends up sharing more podiums with Max Verstappen then they will be celebrating with bottles of Ferrari Trento thanks to a new sponsorship deal signed by the Italian sparkling wine company. We talk to president and chief executive, Matteo Lunelli, about how this illustrious deal came together and how they hope to capitalise on it.
There are not many more high profile sponsorship opportunities than being the official drink that Formula 1 drivers celebrate with at the end of each Grand Prix. Particularly if your brand name just happens to be Ferrari Trento.
You have announced a sponsorship with Formula 1 to be the official toast brand – how did the partnership come about and how long have you been negotiating it?
This partnership has been a dream for many years because Ferrari Trento has celebrated many emotions in the world of sports and the Formula 1 podium is certainly one of the most iconic moment. We have been in discussion for over a year and Formula 1 chose Ferrari Trento because we share common values of passion and excellence first of all.
Moreover F1 is all about innovation and they decided with an open mind to go “beyond” the traditional choice of Champagne. It’s clear that within sparkling wine, just like in still wine, excellence is not a monopoly of one territory in the world. Many can aspire to the highest levels of quality, with one’s own identity.
Italy, with the region of Trentino in particular, is in “pole position”, as was shown in the results achieved at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships which has seen Ferrari Trento crowned “Producer of the Year” for three years running. In 2019 Italy overtook France in terms of awarded medals, while in 2020 the competition saw a draw between the two countries, with 47 gold medals each, of which nine were won by Ferrari Trento.
All the which helped F1 go in a new direction, with a brand that not only offers a century old heritage and a guarantee of quality, but is also an ambassador of style – notably Italian style – which is appreciated across the world.
Why have you decided to step in with this sort of high-profile sponsorship deal at this difficult time in the world?
We decided to embark on this ambitious project, even in this complex and difficult time, because we strongly believe in the future potential of the Ferrari brand and in the dream that our founder, Giulio Ferrari, started over a century ago. We are confident that whilst Covid limitations will most likely impact the conviviality aspects of the hospitality areas in the first GPs of the 2021 season, since the partnership is three years long, we will be able to make the most of the events after the limitations are lifted.
F1 is a global platform and we are convinced that this partnership will allow us to accelerate the growth of Ferrari Trento on a global level. With this initiative we will strengthen our brand’s international awareness, and above all, reach new audiences.
How will the sponsorship work at each of the races? What exposure do you get?
Our wine will be protagonist of the celebration moment; a jeroboam bottle of Ferrari Trentodoc will be on every podium at each race for the next three years. In all the hospitality areas of the Grand Prix the guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a glass of Ferrari Trentodoc and we also plan activations events in the key cities next to the circuits.
What does the sponsorship allow you to do outside of the actual races itself in terms of promotional activity?
Our presence will go far beyond the podium celebration of F1 and all the support races (F2, F3 and Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup). We are thrilled to be introducing Ferrari Trento sparkling wine to the Paddock Club, the exclusive event space at each Grand Prix. We also look forward to bringing the ‘Italian Art of Living’ to many countries currently hosting a Formula 1 race, where Ferrari Trento will be present in restaurants, hotels and bars across the main cities and not only inside the racetrack venues. We will also be the Official Toast of all Formula 1 Events, on and off the circuit.
How are you planning on using the sponsorship in the trade and with consumers – in terms of promotions, on pack offers, consumer incentives to go to the Grand Prix?
We have developed some wonderful activations for the off and on-trade which will be rolled out in due course. It was important for us to have an eye on all trade channels. Consumers will see dedicated Ferrari Trento activations for both on and off-trade in the weeks leading up to Grand Prix’s in our key markets. Whether it would be with independent retailers, restaurants or national chains, we are tailoring the expectation of all partners to highlight the brand in the best possible way in these dedicated channels.
How do you address being a partner for a sport that is criticised for its impact on the environment – what steps will you be doing together to address that?
At Ferrari Trento we have a strong commitment towards sustainability, as confirmed, among other actions, by the organic certification of all our estate vineyards and by the work carried out on biodiversity. Despite the common perception, also Formula 1 has now a significant environmental awareness and plans to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. We hope that F1 will continue to strengthen its role as a global innovation platform. The research carried in F1 can greatly contribute to the development of technologies able to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions from the current internal combustion engines, and to shift quickly to hybrid power units.
How does the partnership with Formula 1 fit in with their wider communications strategy and imagery and brand messaging?
This choice is perfectly in line with F1’s DNA, based on innovation and excellence, is always looking to the future and to new trends. Our incredible accolades, which we are very proud of, and the appreciation shared by leading wine experts around the world is in line with the requirements of quality and excellence that they look for. In addition is not the first time that Ferrari Trento is selected as Official Toast of an important international event, with previous examples including the Emmy Awards, in Hollywood, and the BNL International Tennis Tournament in Rome. F1 wants to continuously enhance the experience of fan around the race and we both want to work in order to create new
What other plans do you have for the brand in 2021?
The partnership with F1 is definitely our main focus in terms of marketing and communication, but we have some other great activities going on. To remain in the world of sports, we have the privilege to be on board the exciting adventure of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. The Team just toasted with our bubbles to the victory of the Prada Cup in Auckland and is on their way to the America’s Cup. We are also partner of Juventus and hope to celebrate with them some great moments in 2021, as we did in the last five years.
We are also strengthening our effort on various aspects of sustainability, from environmental to social, and plan to present this year our very first Sustainability Report.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your sales?
Covid-19 had a strong impact on our sales, as restaurants, bars and hotels are our main distribution channels, and we all know how much this sector is suffering because of the pandemics. In Italy we limited this impact thanks to our vast off-trade presence and online sales increased significantly worldwide, but their share is still very limited compared to other channels.
Despite this difficult market situation, we started this partnership because we are confident it will positively impact our company’s growth in the medium-long term, especially our export sales. As a family-owned business, we have a long-term horizon and the long term, by the way, goes hand in hand with the nature of our creations; it takes years to grow a vineyards and our Trentodoc sparkling wines require a lot of time and patience (sometimes more than 10 years) to reach their full potential of quality.
What steps did you take to keep sales going and engaging with your customers and consumers?
Looking at our export market and the UK in particular, historically we have maintained an on-trade focus which has forced us and our partners to adapt to the new landscape. This ‘new normal’ has certainly been challenging, but we’ve taken this as an opportunity to expand our distribution in non-traditional channels. More flexibility in product availability for online retailers, and general accessibility to off trade has changed the way we operate. In a saturated market like the UK this partnership cuts through the noise and gives us an added edge.
How did you work with your trade partners like Bibendum over the last year?
Closer than ever before considering the circumstances. The obstacles are well known and unfortunately our final customers were mostly closed or working at limited pace, but we have been in almost daily communication with the team of Bibendum looking at being proactive and laying a platform for when we get back to a ‘new normal’.
At the Lunelli Group we have had a long relationship for many years with Bibendum as they have been importer of our Prosecco Superiore Bisol 1542, but we started a new distribution agreement also for Ferrari only one year ago. Now Bibendum can truly promote the diversity of Italian sparkling wine presenting Ferrari, the leading brand of Trentodoc, as an expression of the mountain viticulture of Trentino and Bisol – a benchmark for Prosecco Superiore and an expression of the step hills of Valdobbiadene.
Bibendum have been a close partner for Bisol and we felt the time was right to join forces with Ferrari. Their knowledge of the market, in regards to Italian bubbles is second to none and we are feel we have a partner who understands the variety we can offer to the local consumer. Due to the pandemic, we were not yet able to roll out all the activity we originally planned and, as soon as the impact of Covid-19 will diminish, we are confident that together with them and thanks also to the new exciting F1 initiative we have a great potential to grow our sales in the Uk market. We look forward to going back to normality.