Ever wanted to get into the alcohol industry but were never sure who to ask or where to start? Jessica Witzel, 27, is the brand ambassador for Martell Cognac, has ALL the answers for you. Grab a notebook…
What does being a brand ambassador mean?
My job is to showcase the incredible quality of the oldest of the major Cognac houses: Martell. So I do things like organise exclusive tastings, and train staff in different venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I also attend events on behalf of the brand, so my job involves a lot of travel and meeting interesting people.
How did you get started in the industry?
In 2014 I did an internship at Pernod Ricard, the company that owns Martell Cognac. I worked in marketing on a wine-based aperitif from Bordeaux. This is where my interest for all things grapes was sparked, and how I got into the industry.
So, what training do you need to do?
I spent one month in France getting trained in the Champagne and Cognac region in order to learn every detail about the production process. Talking to the cellar masters and master blenders of the houses, I learnt a lot about how Cognac and Champagne are made. In order to get this job as a brand ambassador, I had to undergo quite a rigorous selection process in France. Once I got the job, further training was provided by the company.
What kind of experience and qualifications is needed?
Generally you do need to have a university degree, ideally in marketing with a focus on either luxury marketing and/or wine. In addition, work experience within the wine and spirits sector is strongly recommended. An internship with an alcohol brand, winery or a liquor store is the best way to get to know the industry and also to get an insight into the different types of spirits.
‘You should be great with people and love networking’
A lot of big alcohol companies offer paid learnerships – Google the big names and you should find opportunities. Pernod Ricard has headquarters in Cape Town, but we also have an office in Jo’burg. Take a look at pernod-ricard.co.za to find out about job and internship opportunities.
Knowledge and interest in Cognac is a must, and you should be great with people and love networking. If you’re someone who wants to connect with the world, this job is for you.
What does no one tell you about the job?
It’s not a 9 to 5! If you want to work as an ambassador, you have to live it and own that role. There is not a moment where you can slip out of that role. You work 24/7 – every random meeting could be the next opportunity to convince somebody that Martell Cognac is worth a tasting.
Your parting advice for aspiring ambassadors?
Focus on your passion. Something that will differentiate you from others is your passion about a brand or spirit.
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