Interview, Part 1: Jim Sabia, CMO, Constellation Brands

Industry veteran Jim Sabia became CMO for the entire Constellation Brands portfolio of wine, beer, and spirits brands last June, after serving as CMO for the beer unit since 2009.

With Constellation’s pending sale of 34 lower-end wine and spirits brands to E.&J. Gallo for $1.7 billion, Sabia now oversees marketing for a streamlined portfolio that’s weighted heavily to the premium-and-above segments. Constellation accounted for nearly 20% of all wine media spending in the U.S. last year at $15.6 million, according to Kantar, although that marked an 11% decrease from the previous year. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Sabia to get an update on the company’s marketing agenda moving forward.

SND: How does the marketing strategy change across the Constellation wine portfolio now that it’s been consolidated via the Gallo deal?

Sabia: We’re focusing on our power brands, putting more resources against them and developing more of a 360-degree integrated approach to marketing. It’s not just TV, social, digital, and other above-the-line ads. It’s also about things like retail promotions and sponsorships. Meiomi is now the official wine of the PGA. Kim Crawford is the official wine of U.S. Open tennis, and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi has sponsorships with football. This week we’ve just launched new campaigns behind Woodbridge and Kim Crawford, putting forward the unique selling propositions for those brands.

SND: What are your goals for the push behind Woodbridge?

Sabia: Woodbridge is almost a 10-million-case brand, with a large percentage of the business in the 1.5-liter ($13). But what we’ve learned is that our household penetration is a little bit lower than some of our competitors. The main objective is to communicate to consumers why Robert Mondavi created this brand. It was to put a quality bottle of wine on every American table. He realized that he had to make the wines approachable from a price point perspective in order to do that. So we want tell the story of why and how he did it, increase household penetration, and bring new and younger consumers into the franchise.

SND: What’s the approach with the new Kim Crawford campaign?

Sabia: Some of the work we’ve done is to understand the aided awareness of these two brands—giving consumers a list of wines and asking them which ones they’ve heard of. Last year the aided awareness of Kim Crawford was only 17%. So we have a lot of opportunity to increase that, even though the brand is already over 1 million cases. We realized that the folks who love this brand are female consumers who say it gives them confidence and is a crowd-pleaser. So in the new advertising, the vignettes we’ve executed show female drinkers in those types of occasions, expressing confidence, and that’s the strategic direction for the brand.

SND: What other areas of the wine portfolio are ripe for investment?

Sabia: Ruffino, particularly its Prosecco, is a brand that continues to grow. We think there’s still a lot of upside for it. We’re also taking a very close look at Simi. It has so much history, and we’re doing a lot of research on how to position it. We’re taking these brands that we feel have so many equities and attributes and looking to position them in a way that’s interesting and emotionally connected to consumers.