CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - Sherry aims for a cooler drinking fan

Long associated with the brown cardigan brigade, sherry in all of its guises was in dire need of an image overhaul. In the ten years before 2001, the number of UK sherry drinkers dipped by 7.4 million. Ad-led strategies throughout the 1990s failed to reverse the trend.

In 2001, Phipps PR was appointed to launch a marketing and PR campaign to rejuvenate sherry's image.

Objectives

To persuade UK sherry drinkers to 'chill' - do as the Spaniards do - and drink sherry cold. While helping rebrand the tipple, the aim was also to boost a slack summer market, overcome the image of sherry as a Christmas drink, present the beverage as sociable rather than solitary and an international rather than a Spanish drink.

To convince retailers that sherry was actively marketing itself and awareness within the wine trade was being enhanced. The overall objective was to increase sales.

Strategy and Plan

There were two broad strands to the strategy: PR and marketing. First, Phipps's media plan targeted opinion-leading commentators such as national wine columnists to encourage them to look at sherry in a new light.

Social drinkers were targeted similarly via tie-ins with Sainsbury's Magazine and a menu created by Delia Smith to accompany six kinds of sherry, and a similar event with Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine.

Meanwhile, tastings, briefings, trade and press trips to Jerez, and advertorials were used to raise awareness within the wine trade. Consumers were targeted directly with in-store tastings, while retailers were approached with samples.

Event sampling was used to deliver sherry's messages to a younger audience at a series of English Heritage concerts.

Measurement and Evaluation

In total, press coverage in 2001 as a result of the PR campaign reached more than 17 million people.

Opportunities to see offered by consumer sampling at events was 2.5 million. A lunch hosted by London restaurant Moro and Waitrose Food Illustrated was followed up in The Sunday Telegraph, while Delia Smith helped get the message across following her own lunch event. She said in an interview that she 'loved' sherry and drank it chilled.

Retailers reported an average of five per cent growth in sherry sales between December 2000 and December 2001.

Some high-profile restaurants began serving sherry, lending valuable endorsement, while London bar Ambar re-designed the first page of its wine list to introduce a range of sherries.

Results

According to Phipps account manager Debbie Feickert, the turning point came when Sunday Times Style section editor Robert Johnson pronounced sherry as the 'in' drink in the newspaper's 'Essential Guide to Hip London' in July 2001.

Columnists in several other nationals followed suite. The key objective of increasing sales volume and value was achieved, with sales volume showing a year-on-year increase of 3.5 per cent.

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