Campaign: Insurance stunt boosts Somerfield wines - Consumer PR

Campaign: Ten Million Pound Taste Buds

Client: Somerfield

PR team: Phipps PR

Timescale: November 2003-March 2004

Budget: £2,000

Keen to cash in on the 2003 Christmas wine market, supermarket giant Somerfield hired Phipps PR to conduct a PR campaign that would make Somerfield wines stand out from the festive crowd. Objectives

To raise the profile of Somerfield's wine range. To increase wine sales. To raise awareness of Somerfield with would-be investors.

Strategy and Plan

Somerfield senior wine buyer Angela Mount has sole responsibility for ten per cent of the company's beer, wines and spirits turnover, so the PR team suggested that Somerfield should insure her taste buds, a move that would highlight how much the supermarket values its wine range and the quality of its products.

Somerfield took the idea on board and insured Mount's taste buds for £10m, making them some of the world's highest insured body parts and providing the PR team with a news hook.

Research was then conducted into body-part insurance and quirky facts were used to embellish press releases. With Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable and Jennifer Lopez among the celebrities who are said to have insured body parts, the team opted for angles such as 'Why my buds are worth more than J Lo's bum' to interest the tabloid press.

For the broadsheets, it put a humorous slant on Mount's insurance policy, such as the fact that she was unable to go bungee jumping in case she bit her tongue. Lower down the press releases, Phipps emphasised that more than half of Somerfield's 380 wines won awards at the 2003 International Wine Challenge, and included subtly branded photographs of Mount drinking wine.

Exclusives were sold to the Financial Times, Channel 4 News and the Bristol Evening Post, with each of them offered a slightly different take on the story. While C4 featured a wine-tasting session with Mount, the FT was persuaded to look at the business implications of insuring employees, while the Bristol Evening Post was given a local hook using Somerfield's head offices in Bristol. The team then targeted the newswires, consumer and trade press, as well as other regional and national newspapers.

The Daily Mail and the Today programme exclusives fell through when, ironically, Mount got a throat infection on the day she was due to be interviewed and - under the terms of her insurance - was forbidden to talk. Phipps managed to turn this crisis around when the interview eventually took place on BBC Radio Five Live by highlighting the fact that the delay gave the terms of Mount's insurance a comic twist.

Aware that journalists might perceive the story as a PR stunt and grill Mount about it, the team ensured she had media training and worked closely with the Somerfield press office to split press enquiries efficiently.

Measurement and Evaluation

Nationally, six newspapers, three consumer magazines and seven trade titles ran the story, along with Reuters, C4, Kiss FM, Radio Five Live and seven regional newspapers.

In-house evaluation showed that at least one key message was mentioned in all of the coverage, with 67 per cent mentioning two or more key messages.

Results

Wine sales increased by 19 per cent during and immediately after the campaign and Somerfield's share price rose by ten per cent.

'Phipps showed very good news sense,' says The Daily Telegraph associate City editor Andrew Cave. 'The piece didn't appear to me as a PR stunt but as an interesting, colourful and unusual insurance story.'

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