Branding, Brewed and Bottled

With alcohol brands, promotional work is more than than just a message in a bottle

As much as alcohol brands are famous for dropping major cash on TV space, that “cha-ching” you’re hearing is the universe sending a friendly reminder that they spend plenty on promotional products as well. From bottle openers and T-shirts to L.E.D. Schlitz signs and coasters decorated with famous pirates, the physical branding opportunities for alcoholic beverages are nearly endless. Perhaps the only cruelty is that the promotional product aspect of alcohol marketing takes far more effort than writing a 30-second mess of dude-jokes and lady-objectification for a television spot, but that’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a little insight from industry peers and experts.

Your First Sip

Getting work promoting an alcohol brand isn’t something that only happens through the corporate office. Jim Wysopal, president of Openers Plus, Costa Mesa, Calif., explained that because of laws forcing separation between alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers, there are plenty of smaller, independent middle-man companies interested in promoting specific brands. Local alcohol distributorships depend on branded items as low-cost advertising to convince bars, restaurants and liquor stores to carry the specific types of alcohol. There is more opportunity in this aspect of the alcohol market than you might think, and for more information on selling into it, read What’s On Tap? and Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

A Beer In Hand

Whether you end up working with a smaller distributor or a full-on corporate band, point-of-purchase (P.O.P.) promotions seem to be a good area to focus your efforts. Edward Duniven, director of special markets for TMD Holdings LLC, Pittsburgh, stated that many of the alcohol brands the company works with will do a lot of event-based marketing at bars, clubs or sporting events, as well as direct P.O.P. displays. Duniven described the types of items sought at bars and clubs.”They do a lot of L.E.D., they do a lot of light-up, they do a lot of T-shirts and hats, things that can be given away kind of easily as a door prize or to everybody that walks in,” he said.

Besides bar and club promotions, Duniven noted there is significant opportunity with liquor store P.O.P displays as well. “We work with a lot of [alcohol] distributors who distribute their brands,” said Duniven. “We get a lot of P.O.S. and P.O.P. stuff they want to put together where there’s in-store promotions for the Super Bowl, for NASCAR, for Fourth of July, for holiday promotions, event promotions, even movie promotions in some cases,” he explained. “The [beer] distributors do a lot of neon signs, and they do a lot of pub lights. They do things that give brands visibility within either a liquor store or P.O.P. or within a restaurant or bar.”

Kid Stuff

A serious challenge with selecting products for alcohol marketing is successfully capturing the fun and playful vibe many brands are going for without using products that could be seen as child-friendly. “It’s a very tight line, because they do want things that are fun, they do want things that get attention, they do like to be a little cutting edge, and yet you need to stay compliant.” Duniven explained this is why alcohol companies favor promotional products in places where everyone is already over 21, like bars, liquor stores and clubs. He also noted this is why one-use or disposable items are valued when promoting alcohol brands, since such products don’t last long enough to make it back from the bar and into the hands of a child. He mentioned L.E.D. items are particularly valuable for this purpose. “You’ll give away L.E.D. lights or L.E.D. straws or other things that pretty much have a life span of one night,” he explained. “They burn out or go dead before a kid can play with it the following day.” He also noted that there are promotional situations outside bars where children can be present, such as sporting events, where caution has to be used in order to keep alcohol promtions in the hands of age-appropriate users.

By Michael Cornnell

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