Results

Integrated Marketing Program Leads to Increased Sales, Tourism and Awareness of Virginia’s Burgeoning, World-Class Spirits Industry

Client Goal: Raise awareness of the Virginia spirits industry, increase visitation to Virginia distilleries and boost sales of Virginia spirits

The Virginia Spirits Board distributes funding to expand spirits distilling research, education and promotion of the growing of grains and the production of spirits in Virginia. In 2023 the Board partnered with The Hodges Partnership to form the Virginia Spirits Board Marketing Office (VSBMO), charged with developing and executing an ongoing fully integrated marketing and branding program for the Virginia spirits industry.

Copious research was key to determining VSBMO benchmarks and priorities. As part of its research the team commissioned an economic impact study which estimated the state’s distilling industry contributes more than $1.1 billion in annual economic impact. The study also determined that the industry employs more than 3,000 Virginians, bolsters several additional industries (farming, glass and barrel production, marketing, trucking, etc.) and supports more than $60 million in ancillary tourism-related spending by more than 200,000 visitors each year. Despite the industry’s tremendous economic impact and the state’s position as the “Birthplace of American Spirits,” research and anecdotal evidence indicated most Virginians were largely unaware of the state’s burgeoning, world-class spirits industry. Seizing the opportunity to grow awareness within state boundaries, the team leveraged Virginia Spirits Month to launch its Year One marketing and communications efforts.

Results

  • Sales of Virginia-made spirits in Virginia ABC stores increased 12%
  • Sales during Virginia Spirits Month in September increased 25.47%
  • A redesign of virginiaspirits.org provided an enhanced user experience, with better filtering and search options and a regionally organized Virginia Spirits Trail to encourage regional trip planning; website traffic increased 31.77%
  • Social media follower count increased by 15%
  • A new consumer newsletter generated an open rate of 43.3%; while a new industry newsletter generated an open rate of 58.3%
  • Influencer partnerships generated 95,400 video views across TikTok and Instagram

Why’d it Work

Timing is key. With six months to plan, Hodges knew that Virginia Spirits Month provided the best opportunity to execute a series of earned, owned and paid initiatives that would continue beyond the month-long celebration. The VSBMO’s multi-pronged “Endless Exploration” campaign spanned consumer, trade and media programs.

A comprehensive portfolio of owned channels including social media and paid digital, virginiaspirits.org, the Virginia Spirits email newsletter and Virginia Spirits blog boosted digital engagement. Simultaneously, Hodges engaged Virginia media and influencers, hosting media tours and sharing stories to educate Virginians about the state’s craft distillers. More than 60,000 copies of a newly created Virginia Spirits Guide and Map reached consumers through Virginia Welcome Centers, local tourism offices, distilleries, and other tourism-related businesses, while the digital Virginia Spirits Passport gamified distillery visitation, rewarding more than 1,000 initial users for visiting Virginia’s distilleries.

These combined initiatives, designed to land during an important promotional period for the industry, led to increased consumer and retail awareness of Virginia-made products and the commonwealth’s exciting craft spirits industry.