She (flirtatiously): Sun and sand . . .  He (likewise): Movies and popcorn . . .  She: Some things just go together. He: Like Fred and Ginger . . .  She: Gulf seafood

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The WA-FL Connection

The Washington Wine Commission is spending $385,000—in Tampa, Fla.

She (flirtatiously): Sun and sand . . .  He (likewise): Movies and popcorn . . .  She: Some things just go together. He: Like Fred and Ginger . . .  She: Gulf seafood and Washington wine. . . .  Say what?! But not to worry. This mini-dialogue wasn't meant for your ears. Only radio listeners in the greater Tampa area are destined to hear it. The commercial it's lifted from, devised by Edelman Public Relations, is just one part of a two-month campaign to make Tampans conscious of Washington wines. Commuters will encounter billboard displays of ruddy Gulf shrimp beside one of Washington's desert vineyards over the Washington Wine Commission's new slogan: "Washington State—The Perfect Climate for Wine." Readers of the tonier lifestyle magazines—Town & Country, Food & Wine—will discover that "Florida's got the surf. And Washington State's got the turf." The WWC is spending $385,000 on the Tampa-area promotion. That's a hefty investment for a nonprofit, member-funded organization with a $1.5 million annual budget, even with the state kicking in $165,000 from the general fund. Wine plays an increasingly vital role in the state's agriculture and tourism budgets, so maybe the expense is a justifiable investment. Still, even if the promotion moves an unlikely additional 385,000 bottles, it's going to cost a buck a bottle to do it. But the Tampa promotion—which includes in-store tastings and attractive pricing—is not a one-off. It's a pilot project which WWC Executive Director Robin Pollard sees as a first step toward marketing Washington wine to average wine consumers. Several midsized markets with well-developed leisure demographics were considered—Denver, Phoenix, and Baltimore among them—before Tampa was chosen as offering the most fruitful mix of demographics in the affluent-lifestyle sector. Affluent? Yes, because although the promotion is aimed at nonspecialist consumers, the fact is that average consumers are not as yet significant consumers of wine. And it's also a fact that Washington state simply doesn't produce enough low-priced wine to compete against California, Chile, and Australia in that market sector. Washington makes a great deal of very good wine at a very reasonable price, considering its relative quality; but for consumers who look first at price, it can't compete, and really doesn't want to. A sample of wine-aware Tampans was surveyed last year; they'll be surveyed again in May to see if the message has taken root. With any luck, enough will be learned to make similar targeted forays in other cities worth the effort. In an ever more competitive market, where quality wine production is growing far faster than consumption, it's well worth the risk. rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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