Sutter Home and the Fine Art of Wine Promotions

Burger If it's not the most successful or the most expensive consumer promotion by an American winery, it must be the best administered national promotion by a winery.

Sutter Home's "Build A Better Burger" promotion is really a sight to behold. Since 1990 Sutter Home, producer of modestly priced wines of the sort that fulfill the drinking ambitions of the majority of American wine drinkers  who understand burgers as a staple of culinary aptitude, has delivered a promotion that is perfectly situated in the companies wheelhouse.

The idea, which I remember watching being rolled out in 1990 when I first got into the business and thinking, "wow..that's really kind of cool!", is to invite folks to create an award winning burger recipe. In the tradition of the classic "bake-off" idea, Sutter Home's Build A Better Burger contest not only appeals to those non-foodie, week-end warrior culinarians that feel at home standing in front of a hot Weber in their bermudas, dopey tropical shirts and a Sox cap, but also those chino-wearing, Tommy Bahama-donning wine & food worshipers who like the idea of ascending the ladder of amateur status chef-hood by re-imagining the burger along the lines of Food Channel-inspired culinary creativity. In a word: Brilliant.

The perfection of this promotion isn't lost on the food marketers of the world. Among the sponsors that Sutter Home has convinced to attach their name to the annual event are The California Avocado Commission, Colavita, Weber, Bic lighters (this is my favorite!), Tabasco, and Kitchen Aid. All heavy hitters who know a promotion built for them when they see it.

What's equally impressive is the Build A Better Burger website. Everything one needs to understand the potential of the Burger is there from past award winners, instruction on how to go about putting on a burger party and videos explaining the intricacies of assembling and cooking a burger, to what is really a remarkable "BurgerBase" of over 5,000 recipes for burgers that is searchable by ingredient.

Of course all the information and rules on how to enter the contest is available too along with information on sponsors and judges. Oh, you can also discover what your "Burger Personality" is by taking a short quiz (I'm a Type A Burger Personality, meaning I have  "a dominant burger personality with subtle hints of others. You could
easily be a Hipster-Burger with Nurture-Burger tendencies. So, embrace
your inner burger and always remember, "if the bun fits, wear it.""

But now here is the kicker. The winner of the Build a Better Burger contest wins $100,000.


Holy (charred) Cow! Is there a bigger prize at the end of any wine-related promotion anywhere in the world?

It's not easy to create and carry out a consumer promotion that makes a perfect stab and connecting your target consumers to your brand, attract a healthy sponsor base, get consumers excited and actually create a cache of results (recipes) that be reused forever, all while attracting national attention for he promotion.
Sutter Home has done it for 20 years and this wine marketer is impressed. Wendy Nyberg, Senior Director of Marketing at Sutter Home is responsible for organizing and executing the promotion. Someone give her an award. 

But, here's the point. Clearly great consumer wine promotions can be created and carried out. The Build a Better Burger promo is proof of that. But what needs to be understood is that one need not have the deep pockets that propel Sutter Home's efforts. What's clearly necessary is a very clear understanding of the type of consumer you want to speak to through the promotion then carefully and fully designing your promotion/event to appeal directly to them. Too often, smaller wineries that create promotional events simply appeal to the interests of their owners, which are NOT always the interests of your target customer. I don't' know if the Trinchero family had a deep and abiding interest in Burgers when they launched the "Build A Better Burger" promo 20 years ago. LOL…But they do now!!

By the way, you can enter the contest with a recipe up until July 31. The winner is determined at a Cook-off on September 25. For those of you who think you've got real Burger chops, let me remind you: $100,000.

7 Responses

  1. Joe Lange - April 9, 2010

    I agree – awesome idea with tons of brand personality behind it.

  2. Cinde Dolphin - April 9, 2010

    Here’s my question.. how do they legally get away with in in CA??? The law clearly stipulates that an alcohol beverage supplier cannot even be a third-party endorser of a promotion that awards a consumer something worth for than $5 or $6 (can’t remember actual amount)… Hmmm, good for Wendy – but how’d she do it???

  3. KK - April 9, 2010

    I agree that the website is awesome!

  4. [email protected] - April 9, 2010

    Hello Tom, Thank you for recognizing Sutter Home’s Build a Better Burger Contest and Cook-Off. I’m both proud and thrilled with the success we’ve seen over the past 20 years. I’m fortunate that the Trichero family has stayed dedicated to their original vision of promoting everyday food (nothing is more American than the burger) with everyday wines.
    To answer the question about California entries, unfortunately the state does permit California residents to enter.
    Thanks again for your enthusiasm for Sutter Home’s Build a Better Burger and I hope this inspires everyone to “get their grill on” this weekend!
    Wendy Nyberg

  5. [email protected] - April 9, 2010

    meant to say “Unfortunately the state does not permit California residents to enter”

  6. Roger - April 9, 2010

    does anyone have a good idea of what the return on their investment looks like?seems expensive to me…and I don’t see any displays anymore in my grocery stores.

  7. lori narlock - April 12, 2010

    This is not only a fantastically smart promotion, it is also very tasty! I’ve been lucky enough to be an organizer, judge and prejudge and own the first two cookbooks. They are hosting an event this Friday to introduce the third book, Burger Parties. A must-attend for burger lovers!

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