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It’s a question of sponsorship

ANYONE who doubted the growing competitiveness of the wine industry need only look to the recent sponsorship manoeuvring which took place at the recent charity event featuring former US president Bill Clinton.

Although the gala evening was a fund raiser to support Princess Margaret Hospital, it is clear that for many involved there was as much a commercial opportunity for their brands as there was a chance to make a tax deductible donation.

The Barbagello name, for instance, featured strongly throughout the evening after Troy Barbagello bought the head table for a reputed $110,000.

But the motoring family name lacked industry competition on the evening when compared to the wine labels, who are increasingly finding themselves jostling for the consumer’s eye.

At least three winemakers got a public guernsey on the night, all for varying outlays and reasons.

But the competition for attention was not always appreciated – though senior sources at each company did not want to comment on the matter.

Major WA player and the state’s biggest listed winemaker Evans & Tate is known to be miffed about the way its sponsorship of the fund raiser as official wine supplier had to compete for attention against at least two rivals.

Evans & Tate wine was on the tables in front of several hundred guests, but two other WA players, one listed and one private, gained a significant amount of attention both on the night and in subsequent news reports.

Of these two, most attention was given to Goundrey Wines because its owner, Jack Bendat, introduced Mr Clinton on the night.

Sources at Goundrey say Mr Bendat has donated significant amounts to PMH, among the many charities and arts organisations he supports as a key plank in the promotion of Goundrey.

“I guess there is more competition (to sponsor charities) now other wineries have caught on,” said our source.

Apparently he took on his formal role for the evening without knowing there was an official wine sponsorship.

Perhaps less obvious was the appearance of Xanadu, which had at least two representatives on the 21 place head table where all three wines were apparently served, according to at least one person who sat on that table.

Chief executive Andrew Moore and marketing manager Kelly Renouf spent around $5,000 each to get a seat, assisting Mr Barbagello who is understood to be a big supplier to the company.

But this oneupmanship was not appreciated within Evans & Tate where an insider said the company would not have sponsored the event if the high presence of people like Jack Bendat, who is a shareholder, had been known.

“It did not turn out as an ideal situation,” the insider said.

Ambush marketing expert Kym Illman, managing director of Messages On Hold, believes it’s good business to try to expose your brand at such events, and that its up to the companies involved to ensure they get value from sponsorships they provide.

“Any business person worth his or her salt would be mad for not trying to gain some advantage out of a situation like this,” Mr Illman said.

“At Messages On Hold, we constantly look for opportunities like this. While a fair percentage never pay off, the ones that do more than make up for the false starts.”

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