Sonoma County's wine and tourism industries make nearly $1 million bet on the Super Bowl
Sonoma County’s wine and tourism industries are making a nearly $1 million bet on the Super Bowl.
In an ambitious bid to draw more visitors to Sonoma County and sell more wine, the two industries have teamed up in a bid to raise the region’s profile by showcasing local wines at official events around the Bay Area, most notably at a wine lounge located at the heart of Super Bowl City in San Francisco.
“The whole idea is to make sure that Sonoma County is foremost in everybody’s mind,” said Ken Fischang, president of Sonoma County Tourism, the county’s tourism marketing organization.
The tourism agency joined with Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers to become an official partner with the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, the regional nonprofit group charged with planning and producing the events leading up to next Sunday’s game. The group has raised about $50 million from its sponsors.
Capturing a visitor’s attention will be a tough task amid all the high-profile activities this week, from concerts by Alicia Keys and Metallica to the NFL Experience theme park at the Moscone Center and even the rival Bud Light Bar, which is stationed just a short walk down Market Street from the wine lounge. And that is all before kickoff.
“It’s a risk. It’s something we have never done before,” Fischang conceded.
Will the Sonoma County effort see an adequate return, given all the money and wine the groups have donated? Some economists contend the economic impacts on Super Bowl host cities are vastly oversold to the public, especially the impacts on an area that is a two-hour drive north of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
“I think this is one particularly risky venture,” Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross, said of the Sonoma County effort.
Matheson specializes in measuring the economic impact of major sporting events. Despite some claims that the big game may bring in up to $500 million in economic impacts to host cities, his 2009 research paper on the Super Bowl found that “a review of the literature suggests that the true economic impact is a fraction of this amount.”
Much of the focus will be at Super Bowl City, a mixture of Disneyland, an upscale street fair and premium concert platform that may attract up to 1 million visitors at the Justin Herman Plaza through its eight days.
That’s where the Taste of Sonoma lounge will feature up to 16 local wineries each day, such as Paul Hobbs winery of Sebastopol and Trione winery of Geyserville. It is expected to attract at least 1,000 visitors daily, according to local organizers.
In addition to the wine lounge, the contract with the host committee calls for Sonoma County wines to be poured exclusively at the opening night ceremony in the Ferry Terminal, media night at the Exploratorium and at the committee’s pre-game and post-game parties, said Mark Crabb, chief sales officer for Sonoma County Tourism. The wines also will be poured at a VIP club near Super Bowl City that has been organized by the host committee.
While working to schmooze with top corporate executives and the estimated 2,500 media personnel, the local effort will also focus on convincing visitors to take a day trip or longer up to Sonoma County. An estimated 100,000 visitors may come into the Bay Area for the game, even though Levi’s Stadium will have a capacity of 75,000 fans during the game.