There was a story a while ago about the Philadelphia 76ers creating a branded wine for what they hope will be the start of a much better period of basketball than they’ve been in over the past few years, where the team has chosen to be as bad as possible to gain better chances at higher draft picks. It’s been called the Process and while the architect of that process has been fired (and wrote one of the most interesting goodbye’s I’ve ever seen in any industry), after all it seems billionaires can get impatient, the larger trend I think holds true.
Sports teams may have been the first to truly jump on the branded wine bandwagon so to speak, but they aren’t the only businesses thinking of doing this. Off the top of my head, the San Francisco Giants (working with Mmm Napa) the Los Angeles Dodgers (working with Dave Ludquist who makes Qupe by day) and about half of the other professional sports teams in America now have branded wine.
In the business world, we’d refer to that as a “brand extension” and more and more companies are starting to see wine as a logical way to increase revenues. Really, a wine brand, or even a wine club, is an easy choice for any company with a rather large email list. Newspapers have been all over the concept due to their falling revenues (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times) and while quality for these can be suspect, especially given that they are all receiving wine from the same company, the idea of a sports team owning a wine brand, is a relatively new one.
This isn’t the end of the brand extension stuff, it’s converging with the wine industry as wine sales in America increase and other industries contract, it’s a sign of the times. I mean, would anyone really be surprised to see an office supply store start some type of wine club given the amount of non essential products that clutter their stores these days? What about a wine club owned by a cable tv company? What about the old video stores (I won’t name names) but wouldn’t it make sense for them to try a movie and wine monthly shipment?
Part of the reason so much of this is happening, is that a number of the fastest growing wine brands in America, are just that, virtual brands. I did a Carnivor Wine Review yesterday and that’s a truly wonderful example, where’s the winery? Where do the grapes come from? Who makes the wine?
Those type of questions aren’t really important if you’re making a brand, instead of a winery. After all, here’s the two step process for these virtual brands.
- Have a bottle that’s interesting enough to encourage people to grab it the first time.
- Make a wine that’s either good, or at least good enough to have people grab it a second time.
Lastly, it would be great if the wine you were producing wasn’t tied to a vintage. After all, these are going to be more casual wine buyers.
It’s a different way to look at the wine industry, but it’s growing.