Large Wine Fairs and the Web 2.0

It’s been a very long time since I wrote a wine marketing focussed post here, guess I have been too busy enjoying the good wines and visits:-) However, this weekend I have done nothing much else but thinking of this post… The idea came to me due to a convergence of circumstances… This last week I had been working on a Web2.0 presentation which I was going to present at ViniSud together with Audrey Domenach and Vincent Pétré. As I wrote in this post for Vinogusto, ViniSud is celebrating it’s 10th Birthday by following in the footsteps of a few other major wine fairs and invested in a Web2.0 Pavillion – a forum for online and digital communication with wifi access to stimulate users to take the conversation online. One can follow this conversation on Twitter when searching for #vinisud and by lunchtime today more 24k people had been reached by a 1200 tweets – not bad for the first few hours of the trade fair:-)

Besides the twitter stream, the Web2.0 initiative also has a blog where they amalgamate a huge amount of one line information which is directly or indirectly linked to the fair. This includes wine articles written by prominent wine bloggers about a country, wine region or producer represented at the fair as well as articles directly referring to the fair. It is in my opinion a great initiative for several reasons:
1. It brings together a plethora of information in 1 place where trade visitors looking to prepare for the fair can gather inspiration.
2. It allows the exhibitors to see what has been written about their region/winery and by whom. They can gage bloggers and web journalists’ interests and organise events/specific tastings for this sub group. I personally received several invitations to attend such events – mainly focused on natural wines, Italian, Spanish, Slovenian and Portuguese wines -which are subjects I have embraced in my previous blog posts.
Such tailor made tastings will have a greater ROI as the press/bloggers attending have already shown an interest in similar wines and are generally more inclined to review it than regular press.
3. It is easy for the online communicators to see what their peers are doing, this often is inspiring and can stimulate more communication. In the end I feel it is really the exhibitor who benefits here as there will be more buzz about the fair, their country, region and a natural interest in their wine is generated. EG a buyer who reads great things about a certain wine region or producer will be more tempted to go taste these wines and eventually buy and sell the products himself. As always it is easier to sell a product when you can refer to positive reviews.

So whilst some big wine fairs are starting to embrace or at least acknowledge the fact that in today’s world the majority of the communication is happening online, some seem totaly oblivious to this fact. My example here is Prowein, one of the largest wine fairs at present.

I have attended the fair the last two years as a consultant but as I will write a comparative article on the ROI of major fairs and have been asked to review several new releases by producers I decided to apply for a press pass. This would give me internet access and allow me to join into the conversation and buzz created online. I was rather surprised to see that no press accreditation is available through pre-registration. Instead the press office will open 30 minutes before the start of the fair and all journalists/writers are to present themselves with their press pass to receive the accreditation. As a blogger I do not have a press pass, something which is mainly associated with print writing these days so I contacted the Press Office as I knew they had a bloggers access last year (some fellow wine bloggers had told me they attended the fair as bloggers last year).

To my great surprise I was told that as my main activity is not writing, I should register as a regular visitor. I went back to the press office explaining that I have mainly focussed on writing in the last few months and that my primary reason to attend the fair this year is to report on it. Once again they came back now asking for proof from online magazines that I would cover the fair for them. So in the end I send them a nice thanks but no thanks email as I feel they really have no clue. Not only do they make it near impossible for bloggers and online writers to receive press accreditation, by refusing to hand out the accreditation in advance they will also miss out on a lot of regular journalists. And I have to admit to be more than a little miffed why the Prowein organisers are making life so difficult for the press – it almost seems like they feel they do not need any press coverage or else they want to pick and choose who can write about them…

The big losers here are the paying exhibitors who will miss out on media exposure. Having worked as a VP Sales and Marketing for a New Zealand winery I know that when one forks out large amounts of money for an international fair one hopes to get as much exposure as possible. I also know I am not the only one thinking along these lines as I have received several invites from distributors and wineries to come and taste new release wines as well as invites to attend tastings organised by generics. I know these invites have been send in the hope that I will attend AND write about the wines. To be totally honest if I hadn’t committed to some appointments already I would have given Prowein a miss and found other topics to write about. Not attending the fair would furthermore mean that I would not have written about any exhibitors who have been vying for my attention.

When comparing Prowein’s attitude to media and specifically online media with Vinisud’s, I know where I as an exhibitor would put my money. Unsurprisingly quite a few wineries from the Mediterranean share my thoughts and they will not be present at Prowein either. I do find it interesting to see such arrogance in times of recession when money is tight and wineries/distributors have to make choices on where they spend their marketing Euro’s.

As there is so much more to say I will explore the topic of major wine fairs and their potential ROI for the exhibitor a little deeper after Prowein on Vinogusto.

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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