Campaign: Chapel Down makes English wine sparkle

Kent-based English Wines Group is the largest producer of wine made from UK grapes, some of which are farmed on its 25-acre plot in Tenterden.

Campaign Chapel Down Wine
Client English Wines Group
PR team Hamilton PR
Timescale May 2005-June 2006
Budget £14,000

Until 2005, wines grown from grapes in different areas of England were packaged as different brands, but last April all the wines were brought together under the Chapel Down umbrella. To support this, and to mark the reopening of the group's refurbished winery - with new wine bar, bistro and food shop - Hamilton PR was hired to position Chapel Down as the premier English wine producer.

To promote Chapel Down wines, particularly its sparkling varieties, as world class, and differentiate the brand from champagne and English wines. To raise awareness of the winery and encourage visitors to the shop and bistro.

Strategy and Plan
In order to score original and distinctive comment about Chapel Down, Hamilton aimed for quality features that profiled the professionalism of the winemakers. The team wanted to avoid predictable media hooks, such as those based around Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day and English Wine Week, and to avoid over-egging the patriotic element.

The 12-month comms strategy comprised mainly business themes, including positioning English Wines as a sensible business investment. The campaign also flagged up its role in rural enterprise, highlighting Chapel Down as an example of quality produce.

Hamilton also promoted the importance of regional food, drink, and tourism. This mix of business and food and drink stories was communicated through press releases and personal invitations tailored to specific journalists. For example, The Guardian's Victoria Moore was treated to a food and drink matching event, featuring selected white wines and scallops to coincide with the local Rye Bay Scallop Festival in September.

Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign kicked off with a seven-minute interview with English Wines MD Frazer Thompson on the BBC's Working Lunch. There were also profiles of the company's award-winning winemaker, Owen Elias, in Waitrose Food Illustrated and The Daily Telegraph.

Individual wines were featured in several publications, including Elle and Good Housekeeping.

The tourism angle featured in a double-page spread in glossy magazine Fabric, while opportunist PR included placing a quote from Thompson in The Times, the day after this year's Budget announcement that tax on English sparkling wine would be frozen. Regional coverage included BBC TV and radio, and various Kent-based newspapers.

The campaign ended with a 14-minute BBC Breakfast outside broadcast, featuring wine tastings and interviews with Chapel Down.

English Wines reports demand is outstripping supply, and turnover increased by 18 per cent in 2005 - representing a sales hike of 40,000 bottles for the year. In June, English Wines was commended in The Marketing Society Awards for Excellence. Jenni Regan, BBC business news  producer, describes the outside broadcast as ‘a great deal of fun'. She adds: ‘Hamilton provided a wealth of research to back up the story on the booming English wine industry.'

Second opinion

Nicky Forrest, MD of Phipps PR, and head of Wines of Germany in the UK, has worked on various wine brands

Any PRO who knows a thing or two about wine will tell you that it's a good idea to get wine stories into the news or features pages. It seems to me that the Hamilton PR team made the right decision to go down this route. 

The strategy of making this a business story was certainly interesting as the trend these days is towards more artisan food and drink products. With a focus on the award-winning winemaker bringing the story back to its roots, this approach worked well in differentiating the winery from its competitors. I was also keen on the rural enterprise and regional angles, and liked the idea of linking the story in with the local Rye Bay Scallop Festival.

For a low-budget campaign,  strong coverage was achieved. The immediacy of broadcast is a great route for news campaigns, especially if you have a strong spokesperson, and it seems that feature coverage is going well.

I'm not sure if the sparkling wine message was fully exploited though - not many people know that England has the capacity to produce stunning sparkling wines that really do compete against the very best champagne. This would have been a great way to create a halo effect on the whole of the Chapel Down range.

In terms of the overall results though, sales are up, which is what a PR campaign of this nature is really after.

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