If a big sporting event has you reaching for the beer taps, perhaps you should think again - wine offers a new opportunity for those wanting their pub to stand out as a top venue for sports fans.

Not convinced?

Wine has a long and venerable relationship with many sports - think about Veuve Clicquot and polo, Mumm and Formula 1, Bollinger and Ascot and, no, it isn't just posh sports and fizz.

Modern still wine brands are beginning to see sports like cycling, cricket, rugby and even football as a way of standing out in an overcrowded market.



I want to ride my bicycle

"If the whole wine industry is talking in fancy tasting notes and food matching ideas then an ambitious brand like our Cono Sur has to find an alternative approach," explains Ben Smith, head of communications at the UK arm of Chilean winery, Concha y Toro.

"So when the Tour de France came to the UK last year, we saw our opportunity. A wine hadn't sponsored the event before and the brand had always had a bicycle on the label."

The sponsorship ran nationally but the team was able to leverage it locally beyond the duration of race, targeting those pubs which cater specifically for cyclists (of which there are a growing number in Yorkshire in particular, according to Ben).

The company has branched into sports for some of its other brands, too. Its flagship Casillero del Diablo label has a global deal with Manchester United and its Argentinean Trivento brand sponsors Premiership Rugby.

"The target audiences are the same," Ben explains of the Trivento deal. "Rugby is largely dominated by 25 to 45 year-old males, the same people who are very much into Argentinean wine."



Wine and wickets

For other wine brands cricket has long been fertile ground, with the Australian label Hardys sponsor of both the England and Australian cricket teams during this summer's Ashes Test.

"Nine million people in the UK define themselves as cricket fans," says Paul Schaafsma, general manager at Accolade Wines, owner of the Hardys brand. "It also has a similar male to female ratio of fans as wine, and is one of the few sports to include lunch!"

Sales of Hardys at the company's stands at Lord's are certainly testimony to this - £30,000 of wine was sold in just five days last year.



Game, set & match

Rival Australian brand Jacob's Creek, owned by Pernod Ricard (PRUK), meanwhile, has set its stall (quite literally) at Wimbledon.

The label has been the Official Wine of the tournament for the last five years and recently designed a wine matching guide for foods that people traditionally munch while watching the tennis. Suggestions include Shiraz Rosé with strawberries & cream, Riesling & sausage rolls, and Fiano with scotch eggs.

"We think such matches will also offer a substantial opportunity to licensees wanting to offer something different during other sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup this autumn," said PRUK's on-trade channel director, Ian Peart.

Further proving that rugby needn't be all about lager and stout, William Grant & Sons has just signed to be the Official Spirits and Champagne provider to the tournament this year and is promising a range of activities across both the on- and off-trade to boost the deal.

Despite all this activity from the brand owners, however, many licensees are still missing out. A shame when the margins offered by wine are so much more attractive than those of beer or cider.


vines 1

Think outside the bottle

"There are so many ways to effectively increase the sales of wine during sporting occasions," explains Mike Gibson, sales director for Carlsberg's Crown Cellars arm.

"Carafe serves, magnums of sparkling wine, offers on pre-ordered bottles etc, will all help licensees capitalise on the opportunity."

Other ideas include theming wines around competing nations (as with the Rugby World Cup), around French regions (for the Tour de France) and celebrating an England win with English sparkling wine (or a Welsh one with a Welsh wine, or a Scottish one with...oh).

"Use your private rooms as space to tempt sports fans with a wine and food offer," suggests Simon Jerrome, purchasing director at Matthew Clark.

"The World Cup will be particularly interesting this year because, as the host nation, it will be in our time. We are talking to customers about making the most of that, how they can promote wines with meals, offering deals such as buy two large glasses get the rest of the bottle free, and encouraging drinkers to try something new."

Beyond this year, the future for wine and sport looks even rosier, as female and niche sports continue to grow in profile, Simon points out.

So, give those beer pumps a rest and plan how best to pop some corks instead.