Nov 04: The first ever Formula One car race in India benefitted the country in more ways than one, but the two wines that could have benefitted from it- Pernod Ricard-owned Mumm’s Champagne and Vijay Mallya owned Four Seasons, do not seem to have grabbed the golden opportunity or at least were not pro-active, opines Subhash Arora who had gone to witness the race and excitement.
With 95,000 people watching the inaugural race at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, near Delhi last Saturday and Sunday and millions glued to the TV, the opening of Jeroboams (Double Magnum bottle equivalent to 4 standard bottles of 750 mL) with celebratory popping of Mumm’s Champagne, the ultimate moment of the Formula One race would, was quite exciting. But Pernod Ricard, owners of the G.H. Mumm champagne does not seem to have taken any pro-active steps to increase their presence in the Indian champagne market, dominated by Moet & Champagne since the birth of wine drinking here.
One of the activities could have been importing Jeroboams of the bubbly much in advance, getting them registered separately with excise and unleashing them on thousands of fans and party lovers that filled the after-hours entertainment space at dozens of spots that offered unlimited Champagne. The thrill of drinking the same champagne in the same ‘big’ bottle as the champions would have made the adrenaline flow in the customers, just as the high speeds of the cars whizzing past at 300 kmph speed.
Bikram Basu, Head of Marketing of Pernod Ricard products in India, including The Nine Hills domestic wine, conceded that they had not taken any specific steps to promote Mumm’s though the concept of promoting this champagne as a product had evolved with the announcement of F1 in India from this year. Did he hope that the race would help their sales? ‘Well we find the response has been quite positive. Wherever we have been going, there has been better than usual acceptance of the brand and the customers have been more positive. We believe in taking strong steps at a time and are hopeful to make good progress this year.’
G. H Mumm has been the official champagne since 2000, of Formula One which had its inaugural race in 1950 in England. The top three winning drivers at the podium get to open Jeroboams of G H Mumm champagne with red ribbon around it. The current contract is till 2012. Therefore, Mumm will have a shot at being pro-active and boost their sales and visibility at least till next year or at least demonstrate to the champagne lovers that there is life beyond Moet et Chandon.
Dry Four Seasons
Another corporate that could have benefitted from the race was Vijay Mallya’s UB-owned Four Seasons. Mallya’s owned Force India (now co-owned by Sahara and thus rechristened as Sahara Force India) had the presence of the ubiquitous beer Kingfisher (they also have imported wine with this label now) and the White and Mackay blended Scotch whisky on the cars but the Four Seasons is obviously not considered important enough in the portfolio, the high opportunity costs notwithstanding. As Abhay Kewadkar, the Head of the UB Wine decision says, ‘it is the decision of the whole organization, but you have to admit there are huge costs involved in such promotion and the international brands have to get a higher visibility.’
This could have been the reason enough to give the wine a chance. With their Ritu Viognier, winning a Bronze medal in the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition (HKIWSC) and the Wine Style Asia 2011 in Singapore last week and with Waitrose picking up by this wine for Retail, it would have done a lot of good to the brand internationally too- because of the global coverage.
Kewadkar who was getting ready to fly to Hong Kong to attend, on behalf of the Indian Grape Processing Board, the Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Trade Fair being held from 3-5 November was not overly concerned about the loss of opportunity. After achieving over 60% growth over the sales last year, he is cool and confident of achieving a sale turnover of 70,000 cases in 2011-12, displacing Grover as the second biggest producer of premium wine (really speaking mainstream wines- otherwise, Sequeira family- owned Tonia Winery in Goa producing 120,000 cases of wine including Kandara wines and the ubiquitous Goan Port, is a clear overall runner up behind the leading Sula Vineyards). Grover Vineyards which fell short of 70,000 case sale despite the lofty targets of 100,000 cases last year would find it difficult to cross 60,000 cases due to some marketing issues earlier during the current year.
With any form advertisements banned for wines or alcohol (beer and liquor producers have been ostensibly able to get away with a fair amount of surrogate advertising), an event like Formula One also provided some opportunities to grab some attention and gain visibility and add to the top-line. Hopefully, wine producers and importers would be ready to cash in on the opportunities coming there way during the next year’s race.