November 16, 2011 – One locomotive of the Austrian wine sector is the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. And it is one of the most powerful institutions in the world.
“A New Austrian Empire?” was the title of an article written by Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s foremost wine critics, for the Financial Times in February 2011. She begged the question in light of the unequivocal international triumph of Austrian white wines and whether or not the world is now ready for Austria’s red wines.
Who would have imagined that just 25 years ago, in 1986, Austria’s wine industry was lying flat on the ground – without a successful structure, without image, without vision. All of the wine marketing institutions until that time, including the Österreichische Weinwerbung (1952-1968) and the Österreichischer Weinwirtschaftsfonds (1969-1986) made valuable contributions (seal of approval, official tasting panels), yet still could not prevent the wine scandal. The developments of 1985 and the subsequent introduction of a very strict wine law in 1986 paved the way for the founding of the Österreichische Weinmarketing Servicegesellschaft (AWMB) in order to“promote the production and sales of quality wines”.
Successful Wine Marketing Since 1986
For many in the Austrian wine sector, the AWMB represented a brand new start following the wine scandal – especially because it was created as a non-bureaucratic umbrella marketing organisation.
Wolfgang Lusak, the first AWMB managing director, began his tenure by introducing an advertising campaign for the new positioning of the Austrian wine image. The successful campaign – under the slogan Ich lade Sie ein – Ihr Österreichischer Wein (or, generally, “You’re invited – by Austrian wine”) reminded many devoted wine lovers of the quality of Austrian wines, and was targeted to the domestic market as well as to the other German-speaking countries. Under Lusak (1986-1989) and Engelbert Prassl (1990), confidence was rebuilt and appreciation for domestic wine was revived. For Lusak, Prassl and all of the future AWMB managing directors, close media contact played a crucial role. Clear, compact information, permanent communication with opinion leaders and good cooperation with the media guarantee that Austrian wine is a continuously discussed topic.
Walter Kutscher (1991-1993) promoted the internationalisation of Austrian wine via presentations in foreign countries. These continued successfully under Bertold Salomon (1994 – 2001) and Michael Thurner (2002-2006). There were significant image triumphs as well – for example, the London Tasting 2002, at which Austrian white wines outshined great Burgundy and Chardonnay wines from all over the world. Also, under Salomon’s direction, the basis for the introduction of origin-typical wines (DAC) was established. Since 2007, the AWMB has been managed by Willi Klinger. Under his leadership, several major projects and changes have been installed. The development of origin-typical wines is particularly important to him. In 2009, Willi oversaw the introduction of a new corporate identity campaign, which featured a new logo, the total relaunch of the AWMB website and the development of new advertising brochures with a special focus on wine & food. The AWMB has been taking part in European Union promotional programmes since 2009, and last year opened up new communication channels via social media.
“Our work is often like guerilla marketing,” says Klinger. “This means with a small, efficient team, we take care of a large number of people and, most importantly, we surprise them! This is crucial for a small wine country like Austria, especially in foreign countries. It is extremely important to have our finger on the pulse of the latest developments, to establish trends, to be in contact with everyone – all while being authentic and creative.”
The Biggest Successes and Highlights
The most definitive proof of the Austrian wine wonder are the export figures over the last 25 years and the export record set in 2010 (€ 123 million; 62 million liters). “Never before has the Austrian wine sector achieved a higher added value than in 2010,” says a very happy Willi Klinger. “We see now that our high quality image is turning into business success in the most important export countries.”
This development has been supported since the mid-1990s with media and trade wine trips conducted via invitation by the AWMB. During these trips, Austria’s wines and vintners are presented and explained. A highlight is the bi-annual VieVinum (held for the first time in 1998), which had an AWMB visitor record in 2010 with 850 international wine specialists from 43 countries. And since 1997, approximately 150 international wine experts have been attending each Wine Summit, which is organised by the AWMB during non-VieVinum years
Part of the AWMBs development work is also to establish brands, such as Gspritzter (Spritzer, since 2001), Junger Österreicher (young wine, since 1995) and SALON Österreich Wein (since 1988), the national championship of Austrian wine.
The organisation of ‘Austria Events’ for winemakers and the local wine merchants are part of the most important image presentations in foreign countries. The biggest ones are Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany, with more than 300 winemakers, and “Austria’s great wines” in the Congress House of Zurich, Switzerland, with about 200 winemakers and 60 Swiss wine merchants. There are also more than 50 other presentations, including Sommelier workshops and Masterclasses, as well as several lifestyle presentations like ‘Austria Uncorked‘ 2011 in New York and Los Angeles.
The AWMB also regularly supports – and even helps organise – major wine-related events. Some important past events include the sommelier world championship 1998, the Master of Wine Symposium 2002, the OIV congress 2004 and the European Wine Bloggers Conference in 2010.
The AWMB supplies the wine sector with current figures on market development and an export guide for winemakers, and it produces advertising materials that are sold via the subsidiary Österreich Wein Institut (the Austrian Wine Institute). It also maintains a tight-knit cooperation with its 50% subsidiary, Weinakademie Österreich (the Austrian Wine Academy), which is an important training facility for vintners, gastronomes, wine merchants and wine lovers.
Online presence is very important to the AWMB, which is why, including an integrated service tool for winemakers, it is communicated in five languages – German, English, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.
“As a wine advocate, the AWMB is a true showcase example of efficient and targeted work,” states Josef Pleil, president of the Austrian Wine Growers Association. “It’s nice to know that we are envied internationally by so many other wine countries because of the foresight and professionalism of the AWMB. And of course, there is always that necessary portion of Austrian charm.”
Financing of the AWMB
Since its founding in 1986, the AWMB has experienced many changes in its ownership and finance structure. Josef Pleil has been with the AWMB right from the very beginning, and has himself negotiated numerous budgets with Austria’s national ministries and wine-growing states.
Originally, the AWMB was owned by the federal government and the states of Wien (Vienna), Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Burgenland and Steiermark (Styria) as well as the representative bodies of the Chamber of Agriculture and the Chamber of Commerce. The budget for the AWMB was approximately 80 million Schillings (€ 5.8 million). However, during the course of accession to the European Union, the federal government withdrew its ownership, and financing of the AWMB was newly structured. The new model, which still exists today, includes the payments of the federal states (currently totaling € 3.2 million and adequate to each vine-growing area) and contributions of the wine industry (€ 55 per hectare per vintner; € 1 per hectoliter for the wine trade – altogether € 3.5 million), which are collected through the AMA (Agrarmarketing Austria).
The contributions of the vintners and the wine trade have not increased since the restructuring in 1997; in 2009, the contributions of the federal states were, for the first time, adapted to inflation. Because of the agricultural law, the AWMB receives (since 2000) also payments from the Ministry of Agriculture, now around € 1.4 million.
Budget Challenges for the Future
The ongoing cost-cutting measures in all public sectors do not stop at the door of the AWMB. Less money will flow from the federal pot in the future. “But good marketing needs money as well,” explains Gerhard Wohlmuth, head of the Committee for the Trade of Wine and Spirits at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO). “The sector contributions have not been valorized since they were first installed. But in the long run, the revenue must rise so that the AWMB can fulfill new requirements.”
To be able to meet the new market challenges, the AWMB has been participating in new promotional programmes since 2009 – these support measures in non-EU countries. Until 2013, approximately € 800,000 per year will be added to the AWMB budget.
Additionally, from another EU programme and with the target of internal market promotion, the AWMB will obtain approximately € 300,000 annually from 2012 to 2014. However, both programmes require 50% co-financing. The bureaucratic expenditures for the promotional programmes are enormous for the AWMB.
The focus of these promotional projects is, on one side, the development of new markets like Asia, Russia and Brazil, which have high medium- and long-term growth opportunities, and on the other side, highly difficult-to-finance projects such as movie productions and, especially, domestic wine training.
Austrian Wine Marketing Board
T: +43 1 503 92 67
F: +43 1 503 92 68