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Bringing It Home: Food & Wine’s Iconic Charity Gala Goes Virtual

Meredith Food & Wine: “Food & Wine Classic in Aspen at Home” Virtual Event
July 23, 2020

Food & Wine’s iconic charity gala goes virtual
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The Event

  • 1 day of eating, drinking, and giving back
  • 11 renowned food and wine experts
  • 2 platform integrations: YouTube simulcast & iFrame to Food & Wine’s website

The Success

  • 7,000 custom guest registrations
  • 9,800+ total event views
  • $30,000 raised for nonprofit causes

The challenge

For over a decade, food lovers, world-class chefs, and wine experts have gathered in Aspen to give back—but the pandemic threatened to put everything on the back burner

The solution

A rapid pivot to a virtual environment, bringing the gala to guests’ living rooms, plus IRL wine shipments for a live tasting

The impact

Historic attendance across multiple platforms, an immersive and engaging experience, and generous fundraising results

Getting together for good

For over 10 years, philanthropic food lovers have gathered at Food & Wine magazine’s annual “Food & Wine Classic in Aspen” gala. Featuring some of the world’s top chefs and wine experts, the event’s cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and panel discussions raise serious dough for worthy causes.

But in early 2020—just months before the event—COVID-19 struck. Almost overnight, getting together became risky business. With most of the gala’s planning complete and celebrity guests—including Martha Stewart, Jaques Pépin, and Kwame Onwuachi—already committed, Food & Wine faced tough choices, and those decisions needed to be made fast.

Bringing it home with Brandlive

Instead of cancelling in the face of adversity, Food & Wine rose to the challenge with decisive action: a lighting-speed pivot to a virtual event. With the support of their charity partners and celebrity guests, they got cooking with Brandlive in May 2020 to deliver an immersive virtual experience—complete with the event’s signature mouth-watering appeal.

Food & Wine’s iconic charity gala goes virtual

Challenges solved

  1. A fully branded experience brought to life.

    Maintaining the gala’s sense of immersive, sensory appeal was paramount for Food & Wine and their parent company, Meredith Corp. Bringing celebrity guests straight to guests’ dining rooms in a fully branded environment was key to creating the up-close-and-personal vibe they needed. Hunter Lewis, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine, said, “We’re thrilled to create a free event that’s open to people everywhere, bringing renowned chefs and personalities onto their screens and into their homes.”

    Lewis’ event organizers partnered with the Brandlive event support team to create a design strategy that perfectly aligned the event’s visual appearance to the unique Food & Wine brand. And together, they created branded, professional TV-style shots and transitions for the video broadcast.

  2. Serving up expert support.

    With Brandlive’s best-in-class support, gala guests enjoyed a seamless experience from beginning to end, and organizers could focus on what mattered most. Tony Pullen, SVP of Sales at Brandlive, noted that “The key thing that made Brandlive the right fit specifically for Meredith Corp., aside from the platform itself, was our confidence and ability to support their event end-to-end. Support, production, and, of course, hosting.

    Nancy Weber, EVP of Marketing and Integrated Communication at Meredith Corp., said “A big reason we chose Brandlive was because they’ve been doing large virtual events like this for over 10 years. And it was the right choice. Working with them allowed us to focus on the event itself—the fundraising, the branding, the food and wine, and not worry about the technical execution.”

A big reason we chose Brandlive was because they’ve been doing large virtual events like this for over 10 years. And it was the right choice. Working with them allowed us to focus on the event itself—the fundraising, the branding, the food and wine, and not worry about the technical execution.

-Nancy Weber, EVP of Marketing and Integrated Communication at Meredith Corp.

Big wins

  1. Soup-to-nuts engagement.

    Aside from the look and feel of the event, Food & Wine event organizers wanted guests to enjoy and interact with the content of the event seamlessly. They used Brandlive’s features to deliver an event with:

    • A live host throughout.
    • An easy way for guests to donate to various charity partners.
    • A simulcast to the Food & Wine YouTube channel and website.
    • A poll for interactive wine tasting.
    • A combination of pre-recorded and live content to provide guests with an enriching experience.

    Using Brandlive’s custom registration, Food & Wine was not only able to capture rich analytics on their guests, but they used that data to send people gift packages (for the interactive wine tasting, of course!) to enhance their participation experience from home.

  2. Gathering around the table—in droves.

    With none of the space constraints of a physical location, Food & Wine decided to fling open the doors and offer the experience free of charge. Unlike in past years, when the event was held in person, there was now no limit to the number of people who could take part in the cooking demos and wine tastings. Brandlive supports over 1M guests, so the more the merrier—and over 7,000 guests eagerly came to the table.

    Along with increased attendance came a boost in the gala’s fundraising success. The event raised over $30,000 for charity partners including NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Smoke Foundation, and more.

  3. Compliments to the chef.

    The virtual gala fundraiser was a hit with guests. Using the Brandlive Events platform, Brandlive’s proprietary Greenroom production and broadcast tools—with an assist from Brandlive’s remote video production team—the virtual “Food & Wine Classic” featured multiple speakers, classes, demos, and ways to interact with people and content.

    Food & Wine worked with Brandlive’s support team to build out a custom registration page, custom event page, lower-third graphics for the show, and several optimal ways to highlight event sponsors. The event connected guests from all over using:

    • Multiple virtual event locations: a Brandlive event page plus directly on Food & Wine’s website and YouTube channel.
    • Prominent donation links that drove over $30,000 in donations.
    • A live poll and over 708 total comments in the chat feature.
  4. Whetting the appetite for virtual.

    Two months on from the “Food & Wine Classic,” Meredith Corp. has partnered with Brandlive to host a range of internal and external virtual events including Real Simple’s “At Home with Real Simple” on Oct 1, 2020.

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