Mention Riunite to Boomers, and the odds are that they'll reflexively come up with the slogan from the brand's catchy, inescapable TV campaign of the 1970's and '80s: "Riunite on ice — that's nice."
With that marketing support, the Lambrusco became the country's top-selling imported wine by volume in 1976, less than 10 years after being introduced here by family-owned Banfi Vintners, and held that position clear through to the early 2000s. At its peak in 1985, it sold a still-impressive 11.5 million cases in the U.S.
As typical Americans became more knowledgeable about wine, self-declared "serious" wine enthusiasts began to scoff at wines with sweet profiles, including Riunite and lambruscos and rieslings as a whole.
Yet Riunite has remained the top-selling Italian red wine in the U.S. for more than 40 years now, and with sales of about 2 million cases here last year, it's still high up among the top 10 imported wines overall.
"Think of that: Many millions of people actually do enjoy a fizzy, slightly sweet red wine," Chicago Tribune wine critic Bill St. John recently observed. "They don't take it seriously, which I suggest is salutary and the proper perspective anyway."
But Boomers have continued to make up the lion's share of Riunite's fan base. The brand hasn't run any national television advertising since the early ‘90s, and it's basically unknown by younger generations of Americans.
Now Banfi is looking to change that with a new, multichannel campaign designed to tap into Millennials' fondness for sweetish alcoholic beverages and all things retro. Those penchants, and an openness that contrasts with the wine preconceptions and drier taste preferences of many older adults, have driven up sales of Moscato in recent years. And now lambrusco, "the wine your parents sneered at," has also become increasingly hot, pointed out St. John.
That's an obvious opportunity for Banfi, which appears to have learned from another recent Millennial-wooing initiative that fizzled out fairly quickly.
In 2012, the vintner/importer launched Sweet Red and Sweet White varietals under the Riunite brand name, working with agency Modea on a "Just Chill" campaign with a primary target of women 21 to 34. The campaign was heavy on social media, with a hub site offering videos and games meant to engage and drive buzz among young women; no TV was in the mix. Banfi has since ceased production of those two wines.
The current campaign, themed "This Is R Moment," is firmly focused on infusing Riunite Lambrusco's consumer base with new blood, and Banfi has returned to its standard modus operandi of handling advertising creative and marketing (including Web and digital channel development) in-house.
The campaign is timed to support a packaging redesign that, reflecting Millennials' well-known preference for "authentic" brands, very closely resembles the original, '60s-era Riunite Lambrusco bottle, reports Charles Dellavecchia, director of the European Wine Portfolio at Banfi.
The design, last updated in 2006, had become "rather commercial-looking," notes Dellavecchia. He points out that in addition to its return-to-its-roots aesthetic, the new packaging includes a back label offering a summary of the brand's story — stressing, in particular, that it's made by small Italian village wineries — as well as information about varietals, food pairings and taste profile.
"In the packaging and all of our marketing, we're conveying that Riunite is a light, friendly, refreshing and approachable wine," says Dellavecchia, who is proud of the brand's recent medals, including a 2015 gold in the prestigious San Diego International Wine Competition.
The Riunite site has again been redesigned with Millennials in mind. Reflecting their fondness for retro advertising and nostalgia, it now offers numerous examples of the brand's vintage "on-ice/tastes nice"-era commercials.
It also offers new "This Is R Moment" videos — which this time are also being aired as 30- and 60-second TV spots, initially in selected cities in Florida, upstate New York, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland. Banfi also currently plans to run TV spots in the fall, but will determine the plan and markets based on assessing the results of this first, three-month flight, which is running through May, says Dellavecchia.
The creative features multicultural groups of young adult men and women enjoying themselves in scenarios like beach parties, with taglines keyed to the "moment" theme: "This Is R Moment to..." make some noise, shake things up, set the world on fire, and "unite," for example. The "lifestyle" brand creative's spirit is not unlike that of the vintage ads, in fact – and Dellavecchia reports that Boomers also expressed positive, nostalgic reactions to the ads, during consumer research.
Riunite is also launching a nationwide sampling campaign, starting by sending its branded trucks on the road to the same target cities where the TV spots are airing. " This grassroots approach is capturing new audiences for the brand and helping consumers rediscover Riunite throughout the spring timeframe," says Dellavecchia.
Another core element is a partnership with Live Nation to present a “Riunite Rocks” sweepstakes through April. Participants have the opportunity to win daily prizes of $100 in Live Nation Cash, and three monthly grand prizes of a "VIP Rock Flight," which includes two VIP tickets to a Live Nation concert of the winner’s choice, two round-trip coach flights and two nights’ hotel stay.
In addition, Riunite is continuing, for the third year, its support of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), which provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, connections to community-based care, casualty casework assistance, and a 24/7 resource and information help line for those who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces.
Dellavecchia reports that 60,000 cases of Riunite in stores between Memorial Day and July 4 will feature a "dog-tag" with the TAPS logo, promoting a sweeps in support of the nonprofit.
All of this, of course, is being tied together and "amplified" with extensive social media activity on branded Twitter (which, interestingly, is handled @RiuniteOnIce), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube sites.