Left photo by Karen MacDonald (Opposite page bottom) Ultimate Beverage Challenge photo by Daniel Silbert (Opposite page top) Photo by Hawkes Photography
suppliers and consumers, especially as
competitions increase.
Rebecca Murphy, owner of the Dallas
competition, says wineries could certainly
do more to promote prestigious awards,
and thinks retailers could best use these
competitions by focusing on the most
prominent or near by. Supporting the
Dallas competition is pretty straightforward
for Russo and Sigel’s; his personal
experience as a judge and knowledge of
the process validates it for him, and then
there’s the strong local connection that
Murphy mentions.
Competitions can be extremely benefi-
cial for smaller producers, but Chip Tate,
president of Balcones Distillery, Waco, TX,
says the bar has moved: “In my experience,
when you walk into a meeting, bragging
about a single award, given the number of
medals and competitions, goes nowhere.
If I can say I have 70 international awards,
that makes a difference.” A recent raft of
awards has certainly helped Balcones sell
out the 6,000 or so cases of whiskey they
bottle each year.
Spirits producer Sazerac uses its
multiple awards for all its brands as a
leading media promotion. Kris Comstock,
bourbon marketing director for Sazerac’s
Buffalo Trace, says the three or four
competitions his team enters each year
serve not only to help the whiskies stand
out in the marketplace, but also as a
way to make sure that the company’s
standards stay high.
“We want to make sure that we continue
to make some of the best whiskies in the
world, and positive feedback from these
competitions is important,” says Comstock.
People associated with the brands are
gratified when they learn their products
are winners; having the opportunity to
have their spirits tasted blind by experts
year in and year out is an inexpensive
route to quality control. “If something
like George Stagg wins a few top awards
and then doesn’t win for a while, the
folks at the distillery would probably
want to take a look at what they are
doing,” he says.
“We’re delighted to see that smart compa-
nies are increasingly understanding the
marketing benefits of spirits competitions,
like those operated by Ultimate Beverage
Challenge, to help promote their brands,”
says Paul Pacult, director of both a spirit
and wine competition under the Ultimate
Beverage banner. Making use of the mar-
keting collateral that competitions provide—
free artwork and medallion icons, for in-
stance—is simply good marketing sense, he
says, and he encourages companies to use
them in advertising, retail POS, websites
and in social media.
Getting behind a competition requires
paying attention to annual schedules, an-
Making the Most
Think local.
Winners from local competi-
tions and/or local wines that have ex-
celled in large competitions have natural
appeal for shoppers.
Lift the underdogs.
Competition awards
can have a disproportionately large
impact for unheralded grapes (such as
Chenin Blanc, Petite Sirah) and lesser-
known producers.
Familiar faces, fresh acclaim.
When a
household name wins multiple awards
or a top prize in a major competition,
think of it as an opportunity to reinforce a
crowd-pleasing favorite.
Winners make for good content.
Besides using in-store POS, eNewsletters
and store blogs can be a great place to
remind customers of medal-winners you
have in stock.
Showcase value.
Medal winners under
$10 are a good bet to highlight, even if
the medals earned are not gold; the third-
party endorsement can make them seem
like real bargains.
Surf for winners.
Many competitons
have made searching through their
results online easier than ever, and have
functions that let you print POS materials.
See how your current inventory matches
up with some of the most respected
competitons, like:
Critics Challenge
Dallas Morning News
Wine Competition
Riverside International
Wine Competition
San Francisco Chronicle
Wine Competition
San Francisco international
Wine Competition
Ultimate Beverage Challenge
Critics Challenge
2013 Judges’ Room
Behind the scenes at the Dallas
Morning News competition, more
than 2,700 wines are carefully
organized before being poured
“blind” for panels of judges.
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