Meet the winery group offering tastings to its shareholders

Aug 30, 2021
Vintage Wine Estates has cultivated a community of engaged shareholders through its shareholder passport program

When Vintage Wine Estates concluded its merger with Bespoke Capital Acquisition Corp in June 2021 – taking it public as a special purpose acquisition company (Spac) – it turned to perks to establish new relationships with its shareholders.

The number of engaged retail investors has exploded during the last couple of years, aided by the widespread offering of commission-free trading platforms and individual shareholders recognizing the opportunity to buy low following the market crash in March and April of 2020.

As such, there is an evolving discussion on offering perks to incentivize long-term investing perspectives and brand loyalty. Earlier this year, Michaela Pagel, associate professor of business at Columbia Business School, released a study that suggests individuals may increase their spending on a company’s products if they own some of the company’s stock.

The leadership at Vintage Wine Estates decided to offer ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ perks – which it calls its shareholder passport – that are available to owners of more than 500 shares and more than 1,000 shares, respectively. The perks include discounts on online wine purchases, complimentary tastings at any of the company’s 14 wineries, special pricing on events and access to other exclusive online perks.

‘When we rang the closing bell, we saw a massive uptick in purchasing of our stock and people specifically joining the shareholder passport program,’ Vintage Wine Estates’ chief marketing officer Jessica Kogan tells IR Magazine. ‘To date, we have more than 500 passport owners, and about 72 percent of those are platinum owners. On a daily basis, we see about 10 to 15 new shareholders and we’re tracking to have more than 1,000 in the program by the end of the year.’

Shareholders in Vintage Wine Estates have to register on the company’s website to enroll in the program. During that process, they provide proof of ownership from their brokerage account, which is then verified by a third party that Vintage Wine Estates is working with.

Beyond the benefits already mentioned, Kogan says shareholders also get access to an exclusive Facebook group. She says the group has fostered an active community of engaged shareholders who spend more time discussing wine than Wall Street. A lot has been made of retail investor activity on Reddit during the last year, but Kogan says retail shareholders for Vintage Wine Estates belong to Generation X or the Baby Boomer generation – and they feel much more comfortable on Facebook.

‘We weren’t thinking about WallStreetBets noise,’ Kogan says. ‘This was really about retail investors who have an affinity for wine and who enjoy the experience of wine and want to feel rewarded for that relationship. Wine creates community. This is really a way of living what we do, which is connecting people through the love and joy of wine.’

Earlier this year, AMC Entertainment attracted headlines for offering free popcorn to its retail shareholders – which it said now represent more than 80 percent of its base. IR Magazine is aware of several other companies that are exploring offering perks to retail shareholders.

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