WineInk: Gallo pairs with the NFL |

WineInk: Gallo pairs with the NFL

Kelly J. Hayes
Gallo has become the official wine of the NFL and will be marketing its brand of Barefoot Wines to fans using television commercials and social media throughout the 2022 season.
E&J Gallo/Courtesy photo

Back in June, when NFL players were sweating it out on the practice fields in preparation for the games of the season currently upon us, a press announcement from the league’s offices captured the attention of the wine world. The E. & J. Gallo Winery had become the official wine sponsor of the NFL, marking a marriage of the two most dominant players in sports and wine and precipitating what is slated to become the biggest and boldest marketing endeavor for a winemaker in recent memory.

The three-year agreement allows Gallo, America’s largest wine company, to use the marks of the NFL to help it market a multitude of the company’s different brands to consumers who enjoy pairing a little wine with their football. In the announcement, Gallo’s chief marketing officer, Stephanie Gallo, a third-generation member of the founding family of the winery, noted, “Gallo is thrilled to be uniting America’s most loved winery with America’s most popular sport.” That may be an understatement.

While the details of the agreement remain confidential, speculation amongst those familiar with the prices generated from such sponsorships expect the deal to be worth up to $30 million a year for the NFL. Gallo joined Anheuser-Busch, which is the NFL’s official beer sponsor, and Diageo, the official spirit sponsor, as one of the three NFL partners at the bar. The three companies will rely on their relationship with the league to expand their footprint and reach consumers while they are enjoying one of their favorite past-times — cheering on their favorite NFL teams.

“As an industry leader, our role is to welcome new consumers to the wine category in unique and relevant ways,” Gallo emphasized in the announcement. “This partnership will do just that by bringing our avid fan bases together. The notion of togetherness seems more relevant now than ever.”

For its opening drive with the NFL, Gallo’s game plan this year focuses on promoting its Barefoot brand of wines to fans of the game. The value priced wines are not just the biggest selling brand in the Gallo portfolio, they also are the big dog wine in all of American wine, selling upward of 18 million cases worth over $500 million (according to Statista) in 2021. If wine sales were trophies, Barefoot would be holding the Lombardi.

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Barefoot produces non-vintage wines that sell for around $6.99 per 750 ml bottle — less than a six pack of craft beer. But that’s just the beginning of what’s on offer. Go to the website and you’ll find over 70 separate Barefoot wine products available. Begin with the standard bottles of Barefoot Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay and other traditional vitas vinifera options. Then there are wines like a Barefoot Mango Fruitscato, a fizzy concoction that combines mango and the sweet Moscato grape, or the Barefoot Bubbly Strawberry Fruitscato, which does the same with strawberries.

And there are a plethora of packages like wine-to-go tetra paks and Barefoot On-Tap 3-liter boxed wines that make it easy for consumers to pack light for tailgates. (I even found single-glass-sized servings in plastic bottles at Airport Liquors in the Aspen Business Center; see Under the Influence for more.)

Beth Orozco, the vice president of marketing at E. & J. Gallo Winery who is orchestrating the Barefoot Wines NFL initiative, told me they are excited about the partnership and its future.

“We officially started on opening day, and we look forward to unlocking America’s favorite brand with America’s favorite sport,” Orozco said.

Television commercials for the Barefoot brand will be airing on Fox and ESPN NFL broadcasts, and a new commercial, just shot in Los Angeles, will air beginning Oct. 9. But Barefoot’s plans for reaching out to consumers during the 2022 season are much broader in scope.

“One of things we are planning on doing is bringing Barefoot and the NFL together in a 360-degree, surround-sound perspective. We will have a full media plan and will be active across social platforms and on our own channels. We’re partnering with influencers, and, over time, we will show up in all the ways that are meaningful to our consumers,” Orozco said.

Barefoot also has sponsor relationships with a number of local teams, including the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, amongst others.  

In other words, Barefoot will be everywhere NFL fans are found. Go to the Barefoot website and there is a link dedicated to the NFL relationship on which consumers can register for a sweepstakes that includes travel and tickets to games and events. There are also Twitter and Instagram components for the campaign.

While consumers of premium wines may eschew the Barefoot brand, a strong argument can be made for its importance to the industry as a whole. The most recent “State of the U.S. Wine Industry” report presented by Rob McMillan, an executive vice president of Silicon Valley Bank and a noted wine marketing observer, predicted a dramatic slowing of wine sales if the wine world did not begin to become more aggressive in their marketing to millennials and broader markets. This campaign may be the catalyst to do just that.

“We want wine to be present as a part of the game day experience,” said Orozco. “Whether that is tailgating or home-gating, as some like to call the in-home game experience, wine should be available and approachable. We want to make it fun for fans. We believe we have the range of wine styles at Barefoot to meet consumers across the NFL fan base.”  

While the NFL has long been a partner with beer companies, this foray into wine and spirits is an example of the new ways in which the league and its teams are growing their marketing might. Along with the Gallo and Diageo contracts, new alliances with gaming and technology companies will push NFL sponsorship revenues this year to $2 billion annually. That is up from $1.6 billion just two seasons ago. This season, Amazon Prime Video has also launched a new Thursday Night Football package that introduces the NFL and its fans to the new world of streaming television.

And just this month, it was announced that Apple Music had replaced Pepsi as the sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show for the next five years at an estimated cost of $50 million per year. Rihanna will be the featured performer. This past February the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show in Los Angeles, featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, produced a television audience of 120 million people. Imagine if they were all drinking wine.

That is the vision Orozco and her team have for the future of their project.

“We are maybe running on a little bit of adrenaline,” she said, laughing about ramping up for the season, much like the teams. “At Barefoot, our mission is really about demystifying wine and making it accessible to everyone, and I think the NFL, with its size, scope, energy and the passion of its fans, is such a great partnership.”

It’s time to tee it up.  

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