Beer Marketing Awards

Last night saw the first Beer Marketing Awards. Brainchild of Dark Star’s James Cuthbertson, who teamed up with beer writer Pete Brown and beer sommelier/drinks marketing specialist Jo Miller to create the awards, they aim to celebrate the best beer marketing, raise standards of beer marketing and create something relevant to the whole industry rather than just one or two niches or those with mass-market presence.

Pete Brown at the Beer Marketing Awards 2015
Pete Brown at the Beer Marketing Awards 2015

Now, I’ve got to tell you most of last night’s winners* were big or multinational brewers/beer brands – although you’ll be pleased to hear Beavertown were recognised for Nick Dwyer’s fabulous artwork and BrewDog for their #MashTag social media campaign. Then again there’ll be those crying that BrewDog are huge and Beavertown ain’t that small either but the worry – or the thing niggled at me all night – was what about the genuinely small/microbreweries? Why isn’t their work being lauded?

I put this to Pete Brown and asked him if many smaller brewers had entered, “Not as many as we’d have liked,” he said. Everyone knows you’ve got to be in it to win it so what put those smaller breweries off? The entry fee of £125 may be part of the answer. Microbrewers are notorioulsy reluctant to part with cash for things that might not bear fruit. Whether it’s a competition entry, a trade stand, an advert, PR or a marketing budget you just don’t know till you spend the money if it is going to be worth it and for a small business, or an individual that is a business, that kind of spending can feel as frivolous as gambling.

But when it comes to marketing, publicity and branding the bigger gamble is not investing in it. This is a more serious issue for the industry than the lack of entries from certain quarters to these new awards .

For every brewer who takes marketing and publicising their beer seriously there is at least one other who thinks their beer will sell itself ad infinitum and all they need is a pretty pump clip and an interesting name. But with the market place flooded with brewers – three times more in the UK now that at the turn of the 21st century – the savvy business person needs a forward plan for how to keep selling their beer in the years, not weeks or months, ahead and that has to include marketing. Or as they put it at the Beer Marketing Awards making sure ‘the right beer gets into the right hands’ (or should that be mouths?!).

So my hope around the Beer Marketing Awards is it will get brewers talking and thinking about marketing, how to do it and how NOT to do it and why it’s worth investing in. As Pete Brown said at the Awards and as Melissa Cole has written about in a guest blog for Roger Protz – there are elements of the industry whose ignorance of marketing brings shame on the rest of us and damages the reputation of beer at a crucial time.

Here we are in the Golden Age, on the cusp of seeing beer more widely accepted as a classy beverage to serve with food and shaking off its undeserved beer belly and wife beater associations, and yet their are those who want to drag it back to the dark ages and ruin all the progress that’s been made. That’s the worst of it. The ‘best’ is not bothering to make an effort with marketing at all which while not as damaging as the line up the Daily Telegraph was able to run today is a wasted opportunity not just to sell more beer but also to spread the beer message.

So I won’t complain about the winners of the Beer Marketing Awards, instead let’s start talking marketing (and publicity and branding) – they’re not dirty words, and maybe this time next year there will be a wider field of entries blowing their beer-marketing trumpets – and we can begin to see the back of the sort of crap that makes beer look bad.

Pic courtesy Beavertown - their award-winning can designs
Pic courtesy Beavertown – their award-winning can designs

*The Winners of the 2015 Beer Marketing Awards

Best Branding or Design: Beavertown

Best Use of Competitions: Thornbridge and Waitrose, with BrewUK  – ‘Homebrew Challenge’

Best Use of Merchandise: Vedett Extra Blond – ‘Vedett Extra’

Best Use of Sponsorship: Budweiser – ‘FA Cup Open Trials’

Best Public Relations Campaign: Greene King Old Speckled Hen – ‘Old Speckled Christmas’

Best Stunt or Event: Wychwood Hobgoblin – ‘Hobgoblin Roadshow’

Best Business-to-Business Campaign: Heineken – ‘Our Shout’

Best use of Social Media: BrewDog ‘#MashTag’

Best Print Advertising Campaign: Fuller’s London Pride – ‘Made of London’

Best Broadcast Advertising Campaign: Shepherd Neame Spitfire – ‘Bottle of Britain’

Best Integrated Campaign: Marston’s Pedigree – ‘Live a Life of Pedigree’

Outstanding Individual Contribution: David Cunningham, Britain’s Beer Alliance

Overall Winner: Grand Prix 2015: Fuller’s London Pride – ‘Made of London’