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TV show fails to benefit from English sparkling buzz

Contestants on the BBC’s The Apprentice completely failed to capture the excitement and spirit of dynamism in the English wine trade, according to UK wine merchants.

Sterling team's English wine advert

Contestant’s on the popular series were given the task of creating a new image for the English sparkling wine industry, in terms of designing a website and online marketing campaign and then pitching their campaign to leading figures in the industry.

Lord Sugar was joined on the judging panel by Julia Trustram Eve from English Wine Producers, Camel Valley’s Sam Lindo and Bibendum MD Michael Saunders.

There were some awkard moments when Phoenix project manager Tom Gearing – the director of a fine wine investment company –  had to explain to his team mate Adam Corbally the difference between Champagne and English sparkling wine. “Ahhh,” said Adam.  “So it’s a brand name, like Hoover. Hoover’s a vacuum cleaner but they call it a hoover. I get it.”

Generally both advertising campaigns failed to capture much of the excitment surrounding English sparkling wine at the moment. Before the firing, Lord Sugar asked Sterling team leader Ricky Martin if he was disappointed with the online video, saying, “I didn’t tell you to make a ‘Carry on Boozing’ movie… I don’t know what you were thinking!”

But the fact English fizz was at the centre of a well viewed BBC show has been seen as a positive move.

“It was great to see English sparkling wine receiving such fantastic exposure and trending worldwide on Twitter. What is more, the timing before the Jubilee could not have been better,” Saunders, who was on the judging panel, told the drinks business.

Helen McEvoy, wine manager at Laithwaite’s Wine added, “The fact that English wine was featured on the show is testament to how much awareness has already grown around the English wine trade and will no doubt give it another boost. The show did capture the sense that this is a very exciting time for English wine, as its popularity is beginning to reflect the level of critical acclaim.

Adam Corbally wine tasting on The Apprentice

“It is The Apprentice however, so the stress was very much on the commercial potential and less of a celebration of the quality and taste of English wine.”

The final result was that Jenna Whittingham of the Sterling team became the ninth contestant to be fired in this year’s series after her advert based on her dream wedding was branded too cheesy.

The losing team came up with an advert in which a bride spat out Champagne because she wanted English sparkling wine which left Lord Sugar confused.

In terms of the industry learning anything new about the English sparkling wine market and where advertisers can maximise potential, the television show emphasised more of what not to do.

The Laithwaite’s Wine representative continued, “Perhaps unsurprisingly there was little to glean from the task in terms of new marketing ideas, though there was an interesting warning about how not to go about it – namely, that the growing popularity of English wine is all about its quality and not a fad, therefore gimmicky marketing should be avoided at all costs!’

“The winning team’s ideas certainly did a better job of reflecting the sense of heritage and the quality of English sparkling wine, but they completely failed to capture the excitement and spirit of dynamism in the English wine trade – as Lord Sugar said; “”.

“In a year that sees the Queen’s diamond Jubilee and a London Olympics, both teams could also have made more of home-grown pride. Laithwaite’s Wine ran an online poll this week which revealed 30% of people cited “patriotic pride” as a reason to choose English sparkling wine over Champagne.”

While Saunders said, ” I’m not sure either team’s approach will revolutionise sales of English fizz but the constant focus on the quality of the wines will be very helpful.
“Those of us in the industry know how good the wines are, and it was brilliant to hear that being emphasised on prime time TV.”


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