Each year, St. Francis Wines hosts its "Big Red" fundraiser in a number of cities across the country.The New York event benefits the local chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the understanding, appreciation, and accessibility of food and drink.
"Our goal is always to raise money for the charity," says Sarah Powers, brand manager for Kobrand Corp., the parent company of St. Francis Wines. Although past events attracted large audiences, St. Francis was hoping to garner a much larger crowd for this year's event, its fifth. "We just wanted to sell more tickets," says Powers.
After changing the venue from Noche in Times Square to Guastavino's, St. Francis brought in Sharp Communications to help with developing a theme for the fundraiser.
With Sharp on board, the goal was to add excitement to the event so it would draw a larger crowd than previous years.
"We wanted to give it a new breath of life," says Jim Brodsky, president of Sharp. "People treat food in New York like it's the theater; they expect fireworks."
Traditionally, he says, publicity for the event had focused on the food and wine industries and their niche publications. Sharp knew that to drive up ticket sales, the PR team would have to also target the consumer press. But attracting mainstream coverage for a food-centric event is often difficult to pull off.
"In order to get coverage, we had to go above and beyond," Brodsky says. The team from Sharp decided that a third party would have to be brought in to guarantee maximum media exposure and draw a more mainstream audience.
An article in the New York Post about a cook-off at ESPN Zone involving members of the New York Giants prompted Sharp to seek a partnership with the football team for the St. Francis event.
Finding a correlation between the team and the wine was a challenge. But Sharp soon decided to focus on Tiki Barber, the team's most outspoken personality, by coming up with the idea for "Tiki Barber Venison Chili," a recipe developed with an executive chef from Guastavino's. Brodsky says the recipe was selected because it was a hearty red-meat dish that would go well with St. Francis' red wines. Sharp planned to tout it as the signature dish of the event.
Giants Jesse Palmer, Brandon Winey, Kenderick Allen, and Jack Brewer signed on to attend the event, as did former team member Charles Way. With the "wow" factor settled, Sharp then launched media outreach for the event. Besides the traditional food trade press, such as The Wine News and Total Food Service, Sharp also targeted Gotham magazine and the New York Observer.
St. Francis reached its goal of surpassing ticket sales from previous years by selling 500 tickets, which was a sellout for the event. "They had to start turning people away at the door," says Brodsky.
The event also raised more than $50,000 for the AIWF. An added bonus was that the event exposed a large audience to St. Francis Wines. "We had 500 people who tasted our wines in one night," Powers notes.
The event created an alliance between the New York Giants and the St. Francis brand, Brodsky says. Talks are under way to determine what relationship the team will have in the future, he says.
PR team: St. Francis Wines, owned by Kobrand Corp., and Sharp Communications (both New York)
Campaign: "Big Red" fundraiser at Guastavino's restaurant in New York
Time frame: September 13 to October 25, 2004