As the best-selling wine in the U.S., Barefoot Wine & Bubbly attributes its longtime support of community events and nonprofits to establishing a dialogue with consumers and ultimately driving sales.

The E. & J. Gallo Winery brand—which sponsors roughly 3,000 events each year—continues to build on that success with new partnerships and programs ranging from community festivals and LGBT events to local and national nonprofits.

For example, Barefoot this year rolled out Soles of the Year, a program designed to build awareness of seven up-and-coming nonprofits and encourage participation in the local community. The program follows the 2012 rollout of the Walk for a Cause fundraising initiative.

In what is perhaps the brand’s oldest sponsorship, Barefoot has sponsored the Surfrider Foundation for more than 20 years. Barefoot activates the tie with the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, a series of beach cleanups in the U.S. and Europe.   

IEG SR spoke with Brie Baltzell, Barefoot Wine & Bubby marketing manager, about the company’s approach to sponsorship, the Sole of the Year program and other topics.  

Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

On Barefoot’s long history of supporting nonprofits   
We have long roots in the nonprofit partnership space. We have partnered with local and national nonprofits for more than 20 years—it’s an important part of who the Barefoot brand is and why it was created. Word of mouth marketing has been a key strategy since the brand was founded in 1986.

We have brand ambassadors—called Barefooters—all over the country and the world. The Barefooters partner with nonprofits in each city to support events and create partnerships. Those partnerships get us in front of new groups of people and engage them in a conversation about our product.

The thinking behind the Soles of the Year program
We launched the program this year by aligning with the founders of seven nonprofits that are in the build-up phase of their organizational cycle.

We identified seven people that made an impression on us, and we’re helping them tell their stories. We’re putting their stories on the back of a new product called Impression Red Blend. We’re telling their stories not only on our Web site and through social media, but on product packaging.

The nonprofits include Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen in Atlanta, Urban Releaf in Oakland, Calif. and Ride Ataxia cycling events across the country.

We reached out to our own connections to identify potential nonprofits. Those included Barefooters in each city, Gallo employees and our friends and family. It was a very grassroots process and a very rewarding and interesting process to identify those organizations and how we can help make a difference.

We like to say “Barefoot doesn’t just write a check. We show up.” We want to bring people in and take action.

On Walk for a Cause
Walk for the Cause gives Barefooters the opportunity to identify causes that are important in their community, or that they are passionate about, with an emphasis on fundraising walks.

For example, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has an event called Great Strides. Barefooters located in cities where those events take place can sponsor walks in their markets. That is one of many examples of local events that Barefoot sponsors.

We like to say Barefoot puts the fun in fundraising. A wine brand sponsoring a fundraising walk is something unexpected for many attendees. It invites questions and gives Barefoot a chance to tell its story.

We not only over-deliver at our price point. We want to give people a reason beyond price to buy our product and be loyal to our brand.