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Beer Marketing Awards pit micros, regional and global brewers against each other

I helped organise the inaugural Beer Marketing Awards. The awards event is on 14th April, and the shortlist tells us a great deal about where the beer industry is today.

When I was approached to be a partner in the first ever Beer Marketing Awards, the thing that sold it to me was that there were categories that appeal to brewers of any size. 
There’s a misconception in some quarters of the beer world that marketing is by definition a bad thing, which is a bit like saying breathing is evil because some people say mean things when they do. 
Marketing is essential for any brewery, of any size. And what’s exciting just now is that just as beer itself has been revolutionised, so has the way in which it engages people and builds relationships with them. 
Gone are the days when an ad by Heineken or Carling in the middle of Coronation Street would be seen by every drinker who wasn’t already in the pub. TV ads aren’t as good as they were because regulations have been tightened and marketers are more cautious. Some individuals in the craft beer movement have more followers on Twitter than the world’s biggest beer brands. The rules of design have been broken. And while budget will always separate big from small, you can get noticed without spending anything at all if your idea is good enough. But does telly still have a role to play? Can sponsorship be something useful rather than simply being an irritant? Of course. 
Across all marketing disciplines, there’ a lot of crap, but the good stuff shines out from it. By celebrating the good, we hopefully encourage more people to do better marketing. So I couldn’t wait to see what our shortlist would look like. And here it is:

Best Branding or Design (Sponsored by Co.Bir) 

  • Beavertown 
  • BrewDog 
  • Daniel Thwaites Brewery for Crafty Dan 

Best Use of Competitions (Sponsored by PUB16) 

  • Thornbridge and Waitrose, with BrewUK  – ‘Homebrew Challenge’ 

Best Use of Merchandise (Sponsored by Vektor) 

  • Ales by Mail – ‘Beer Advent Calendar’ 
  • Duvel Moortgat, Vedett Extra Blond – ‘Vedett Extra’ 

Best Use of Sponsorship (Sponsored by Dark Star) 

  • Budweiser – ‘FA Cup Open Trials’ 
  • Carling – ‘World Cup ITV Coverage’ 
  • Estrella Damm – ‘Gastronomy Congress’ 

Best Public Relations Campaign

  • Britain’s Beer Alliance – ‘There’s a Beer For That’ 
  • Greene King Old Speckled Hen – ‘Old Speckled Christmas’ 
  • Marston’s Pedigree – ‘Making Local PR Count’ 

Best Stunt or Event (Sponsored by Charles Wells) 

  • Greene King – ‘Charity Ball’ 
  • Sol – ‘Sol Street Food’ 
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin – ‘Hobgoblin Roadshow’ 

Best Business-to-Business Campaign (Sponsored by Ella Communications) 

  • Butcombe Bottle Ales – ‘Premium Bottled Ale Report’ 
  • Carlsberg – ‘Crafted’ 
  • Heineken – ‘Our Shout’ 

Best use of Social Media (Sponsored by Poppleston Allen) 

  • BeerBods – ‘#BeerBods’ 
  • Brew Dog – ‘#MashTag’ 
  • Estrella – ‘#EstrellaLife’ 
  • Trooper by Robinsons and Maiden Brews – ‘Trooper Tracker’ 

Best Print Advertising Campaign (Sponsored by Britain’s Beer Alliance) 

  • Belhaven Best – ‘To a Pint’ 
  • Fuller’s London Pride – ‘Made of London’ 
  • Old Speckled Hen- ‘Seek Out Something Different’ 

Best Broadcast Advertising Campaign (Sponsored by Craft Beer Co.) 

  • Britain’s Beer Alliance – ‘There’s A Beer For That’ 
  • Old Speckled Hen – ‘Seek Out Something Different’ 
  • Shepherd Neame Spitfire – ‘Bottle of Britain’ 

Best Integrated Campaign (Sponsored by the BII) 

  • Britain’s Beer Alliance – ‘There’s A Beer For That’ 
  • Marston’s Pedigree – ‘Live a Life of Pedigree’ 
  • Purity Brewing – ‘Cycling’
We’ll also be giving out an award for ‘Outstanding Individual Contribution’ (sponsored by Charles Faram) and an overall Grand Prix, chosen from the category winners and sponsored by Boutique Beers by Matthew Clark, our event partner and title sponsor. 
It’s probably no surprise that the regional brewers dominate many categories, as they have decent budgets but not enough to just blanket everywhere. We’re very happy some global brewers have joined in as in marketing they set the pace, and spend most of the money in the category. We didn’t get as many entries from smaller brewers as we’d perhaps hoped – this may have something to do with the entry fee, which we couldn’t avoid having in our start-up year but may be up for review in future.
When I look at ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ and see a pan-industry initiative funded by big global brewers, a campaign from one of Britain’s largest cask ale brands and another from a small but rapidly growing craft brewer; or ‘Best Social Media’ being fought out between a regional, a world beer owned by one of the big global brewers, a campaign by a craft beer brand built through social media and a club set up by a craft beer fan, I know we succeeded in what we set out to achieve in these awards. Any brewer of any size can do good – or bad – marketing.
The awards evening is at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, East London, on Tuesday 14th April. Tickets are available here. We’re keeping formalities to a minimum, with not a black tie to be seen, a short awards presentation, a few street food carts, some great beers on tap and a DJ till midnight. Just as the awards seek to celebrate all beer, so the event itself will allow the whole industry to get together to enjoy a drink and a chat.
If you’re a journalist who wants to cover the event, please contact me to talk about press tickets. If you’re a finalist who hasn’t yet booked, you get one place free or a discounted table rate.
It’s been a long old awards season this year – which you have to expect if you organise a brand new awards scheme from scratch I suppose. I’m looking forward to this event so much (though I’ve got an awful lot of work to do writing my awards presentation speech). Afterwards, I’m going to surprise everyone by actually writing about beer, pubs and cider on this blog 
But if this focus on the way beer is sold persuades just one brewer to put as much thought into how their beer is presented as to how it tastes, if it stops one company from doing crude, lazy, sexist or embarrassing marketing and encourages them to do something more thoughtful instead, it will all have been worthwhile.

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