Best Practices 2017 Best Consumer Education Program: Virginia ABC

The Virginia ABC achieved success in the past year through collaboration, with two campaigns that promoted aspects of the state’s vibrant wine industry.

For Virginia Wine Month in October of 2016, the Virginia ABC partnered with the Virginia Wine Board and Virginia Tourism Corporation. ABC stores offered a 15% discount on all Virginia wines, while state vineyards were encouraged to conduct in-store tastings throughout the month. Promotion for the campaign took place on the Virginia ABC website, news releases, social media and e-newsletter, as well through in-store materials like posters and bottleneck tags.

“We wanted to be part of the statewide promotion and education of consumers that ABC stores carry Virginia wines,” says John Shiffer, Virginia ABC director of marketing. “Consumers awareness in general of Virginia wine is very high, but I don’t think the consumer thinks of Virginia ABC stores as the place to go for that wine.”

Instead, people more often associate grocery stores with purchasing in-state wines, Shiffer explains. Consumers traditionally think of ABC as where they buy spirits. The 2016 campaign helped overcome that reputation. Sales of Virginia wines in ABC stores increased 11.3% year-over-year for October.

The Virginia Vineyard Month of April in 2017 was again a collaborative effort among the three organizations.

“By working together we are able to create a much more robust promotion,” says Karin Taylor, Virginia ABC consumer marketing manager. “We all get a lot more exposure that if we’re doing it by ourselves. There’s a lot of synergy from the three organizations coming together.”

The Wine Board originally developed Virginia Vineyard Month to increase public awareness, tourism to vineyards and sales of state wines. As a retailer of these products, Virginia ABC participated in the campaign to drive consumer awareness of wines in ABC stores, while also promoting limited-batch, award-winning Virginia wines through a lottery process.

Consumers entered for a chance to purchase a case of 2017 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal wines. These are bottles that earned top honors at the annual winemaking event, which also attracts a great deal of tourism. All state vineyards can participate in the Governor’s Cup. Wines that win are typically made for the competition, and are available for consumers mostly through vineyard tasting rooms. Getting to drink these wines at home is rare.

The Virginia ABC was able to acquire bottles from six of the 12 Gold Cup winners in 2017. With these they created 60 cases for the lottery winners, giving people the chance to buy these special wines.

The department also held a Virginia Vineyard Sweepstakes as part of the campaign. The winner from the 414 entries received a vacation package for two LDA adults for three days and two nights at Barboursville Vineyards and its inn. This included a four-course dinner and wine pairing at the onsite restaurant, a five-hour wine tour with Blue Ridge Wine Excursions, tours and tastings at several wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail and a $100 Visa gift card for another meal.

“We are proud to support our state’s widely acclaimed wine industry and offer these fine ‘made in Virginia’ products on ABC store shelves,” says Virginia ABC Chairman Jeffrey Painter. “Our partnership with the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote Virginia Vineyard Month highlights the economic development and growing tourism that we can attribute to our local wineries and vineyards.”

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