Campaigns: Korbel toasts Y2K again and again .... Product PR

Client: Korbel Champagne Cellars (Gurnville, CA)

Client: Korbel Champagne Cellars (Gurnville, CA)

Client: Korbel Champagne Cellars (Gurnville, CA)

PR Team: Edelman Public Relations (Chicago)

Campaign: Promotion of Korbel Champagne for new millennium

Time Frame: Planning started in 1995; primary campaign took place in


Budget: dollars 4 million (for two years)

Though selling champagne for the millennium New Year’s Eve might seem a

walkover, the category has actually been declining in recent years.

Sales are also intensely seasonal, with volume packed into just a few

brief periods of the year. Korbel Champagne Cellars launched a dollars

25 million marketing and PR program to boost sales; over the past two

years, dollars 4 million went to a PR campaign the company conducted in

partnership with Edelman’s Chicago office.


Planning for the long term isn’t a common PR trait. But Korbel had

plenty of warning that 2000 was coming, and work on the project actually

started five years before the primary elements of the program kicked in

on January 1, 1999.

Korbel and Edelman decided to create a ’Countdown to the Millennium’

program that would send messages on a national, regional, local and even

individual level. The goal was to both gain visibility and create a

sense of fun and even inevitability about the product. Korbel also

wanted to get a head start on other brands and tap into the emotional

energy surrounding the turn of the millennium.


The company seized the champagne spotlight in 1997 when it became the

first global sponsor of the Times Square 2000 celebration. But PR really

got into gear on January 1 with the commencement of the ’Millennium

Practice Party Tour.’

Originally slated to appear in 20 markets, the tour wound up reaching

42. Realizing that physical attendance was possible for only a tiny

percentage of the mass audience the company wanted to reach, the team

worked aggressively with local media and even secured support from many

town mayors. ’We got mayors to proclaim ’Millennium Practice Day’ in

many markets. That’s amazing to me,’ says Edelman EVP Jennifer


The tour featured a ’Millennium Mobile,’ a tractor-trailer that opened

into a stage and included a 12-monitor screen and the world’s largest

bottle of champagne (now on exhibit in Times Square). Intimacy was part

of the effort. The truck had two champagne-bottle-shaped terminals for

attendees to enter their thoughts, dreams and hopes for the new


Korbel later used these responses in videos and press releases.


Korbel is downright bubbly about the success of its program. The company

boosted sales by an estimated 400,000 cases last year. Though store

shelves didn’t go dry, on December 17, 1999, Korbel shipped from its

warehouse its last case of champagne - it had run out of inventory.

Retail sales in 1999 grew by 47% to dollars 211 million - in a category

where volume had dropped the last several years. Just as important,

Korbel demonstrated to champagne sellers that the product could move

throughout the year, not just on a single holiday; the campaign managed

to boost sales for months at a time.

Total media clips came to nearly 1.3 billion - 460 million from

newspapers, 115 million from magazines and 215 million from broadcast TV

and 481 million from radio.


Energized by the success of its program, Korbel plans more PR


Campaigns in 2000 will center on weddings, the Olympics and New Year’s

Eve 2001, which some people say is the real beginning of the new


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