Affiliate Programs – The Next Wave of Wine Marketing


With increased interest in the digital space, more wine brands could shift their marketing efforts towards affiliate programs.

Brooke Heron

When it comes to online marketing and advertising, most companies in the wine industry are familiar with advertising channels such as Google, Facebook or Instagram. Far fewer are familiar with the concept of affiliate programs or affiliate marketing, a type of digital advertising that allows partners (or affiliates) to display branded content and advertisements on their own websites, online channels or digital publications.

Although affiliate marketing has been around since the early 90s, it wasn’t widely used until 1996 when Amazon launched its Amazon Associates program, the first publicly promoted affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing concept image with related text and symbols.

Historically, affiliate marketing has been something mostly taken advantage of by large, high-volume online retailers, like Amazon. These programs made more sense for companies doing high-volume online business who had the technology in place and the budget and talent to create and run these programs.

In the world of wine, companies traditionally favor on-site sales or orders placed by telephone or e-mail. E-commerce software implementation became more popular in the early 2000s, but only really gained adoption in conjunction with the 2020 pandemic.

Over the past five to ten years, technology has become both more advanced and less expensive, thus more accessible to businesses of all sizes. The wine industry came at a unique moment in time. A business of any size can now launch their own affiliate program using a software application on almost any website platform they choose.

Currently, the types of wine businesses that offer affiliate programs are almost always online wine clubs, wine club businesses, or wine retailers. There are few wineries in the affiliate advertising space, for several reasons. First, there is concern about the potential violation of the Tied House Rules which, for wineries, accompany all forms of online marketing and advertising. Second, there are concerns about violating ABC guidelines, which all types of businesses in the wine and spirits industry who engage in online sales should be aware of.

Bahaneh Hobel /
Bahaneh Hobel /

Bahaneh Hobel, an attorney specializing in liquor law and compliance, says that in theory wineries’ use of affiliate programs would be acceptable if business is conducted and payment made in accordance with all applicable laws.

Another problem: compensation. “This is akin to branded third-party marketers, and in California at least, compensation for third-party marketers is permitted as long as it’s reasonable and consistent with ABC’s guidelines in its Vendor Industry Notice. third of 2011,” says Hobel.

However, the small number of wine businesses that have taken advantage of affiliate programs in the past is also largely due to the lack of attention paid to e-commerce in general. But since 2020, things are different. The urgent need to do more business virtually has led to rapid evolution and the adoption of more modern technological solutions. Additionally, businesses have quickly become more willing to seek out new and different sales and marketing channels in an effort to reach new audiences.

New brands in the wine and spirits industry are, unsurprisingly, at the forefront. They have come of age in the digital age and are working with modern, flexible technology and tools from day one, rather than having to dismantle old systems and rebuild them. Even today’s small businesses can easily launch their own affiliate programs using low-cost, easy-to-manage software applications available through their website platforms.

Maker wine has built a community of
Maker wine has created a community of “can fans” through its affiliate program. Pictured: Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2020 by Chris Christensen / Courtesy

Sarah Hoffman of Maker Wine, a premium canned wine company launched in 2020, recently launched her new “Cannoisseur” affiliate program. “We’ve seen the incredible value that authentic creator and influencer endorsements can bring,” says Hoffman.
An affiliate program allows us to track the effectiveness of these efforts, build a community of ‘Can Fans’, and ensure that Creators are compensated for the new business they bring to Maker. »

Digital marketers and PR agencies are also starting to have affiliate marketing-related conversations with their customers and potential customers. “As someone working in PR with wine and food clients, I’ve seen interest in affiliate marketing grow, especially since 2020,” comments Laiko Bahrs, Laiko Bahrs Communications. “Small brands are increasingly aware of affiliate marketing and are considering or considering investing in new online marketing and advertising channels. And this now extends to potential integration with their advertising strategy. of products. “

While the majority of businesses in the wine industry do not yet have an affiliate program, the trend for this form of online advertising finally seems to have arrived in the wine space, as evidenced by the growing number and diversity of brands launching programs, including leading companies. such as Stags’ Leap Winery, HALL Family Wines, Maker Wine, Bounty Hunter Wine, Treasury Wine Estates and Coravin, over the past 2-3 years. And given the wine industry’s shift towards more e-commerce driven sales, this may just be one form of advertising we’ll see increase in 2022 and beyond.


Brooke HeronBrooke Herron is a Sonoma County-based OMCP-certified digital marketer, online sales strategy consultant, and part-time freelance writer. When not conducting digital audits or working on customer marketing projects, Brooke writes for various publications including Decanter Magazine, Somm Journal, The North Bay Bohemian and a few others. In her free time, she can be found on a hiking trail or somewhere overlooking the ocean.

IG: @adifferentkindoftravel LI: @herronbrooke


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