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Cooking in The At-Home Kitchen For Food & Wine’s Charity Gala

The iconic Aspen event pivoted to an at-home experience, complete with real wine tastings and star-studded speakers in the comfort of their own kitchens.

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

  • 1 day of good food and giving back
  • 11 food and wine experts
  • 2 platform integrations

The Success

  • 7k custom guest registrations
  • 9,800+ total event views
  • $30k raised for non-profit causes
  • The Challenge: Bring together food lovers, wine experts and world-class chefs to give back, all without cutting corners on the crux of the experience – enjoying delicious wine.
  • The Solution: A rapid pivot to a virtual environment; bringing the gala to guests’ living rooms, complete with wine shipments for a live tasting.
  • The Impact: With the switch to a free event, the amount of attendees increased immensely, resulting in generous donations to the charities the event was supporting.

Gathering Together for a Good Cause

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 yearly event’s cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and panel discussions raised some serious dough for worthy causes.

But in early 2020, just months before the event, the pandemic put in-person events on pause. 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 that needed to be made fast.

Instead of canceling in the face of adversity, Food & Wine rose to the challenge with a quick 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 incredible experience.

Bringing It Home with Brandlive

Maintaining the gala’s sense of immersive, sensory appeal was paramount for Food & Wine.

In partnership with Brandlive, Food & Wine had a custom landing page for their attendees to register for the event. Because of this, the event coordinators were not only able to capture rich analytics on their guests, but they used that data to send attendees gift packages (for the interactive wine tasting, of course!) to enhance their participation experience from home.

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.

Bringing celebrity guests straight to guests’ homes in a fully branded environment was also a key element that needed to be included in the event, in an effort to create the up-close-and-personal vibe they craved. With this goal in mind, the expert support team at Brandlive developed a design strategy that perfectly aligned the event’s virtual appearance to the Food & Wine brand.

Partnering with Brandlive meant that Food & Wine didn’t have to skimp on any of the details to make their event 5-stars; elevated TV-style shots throughout their video broadcast, an easy way for guests to donate to the various charity partners, a live poll for the interactive wine tasting, and more.

Food & Wine’s iconic charity gala goes virtual

Better Reach, Bigger Donations

In the spirit of embracing change, Food & Wine felt free to fling open the doors on their virtual event space and offer the gala free of charge. As opposed to past years, now there was no limit to the number of people who could take part in the cooking demos and wine tastings. Thus, over 7000 guests came to the table to partake in food, wine, and philanthropy.

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.

After it was all said and done, Food & Wine’s shift to a virtual event meant that everyone could still have their cake and eat it, too. From the vendors to the attendees to the charity partners involved, the annual fundraising gala continued to be a success with many meaningful wins, especially during a time when people were craving novel, social experiences.

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