Whether you’re a new craft brewery on the scene or if you’ve been producing quality beverages for years, craft beer festivals are a proven way to get your brand into the market and promote your products. To help you make the most of festival season (and beyond), we’ve put together this handy ultimate craft beer festival marketing guide to help you get the word out and build a loyal following for your beer.
Your Craft Beer Festival Marketing Guide
The 2018 Great British Beer Festival, one of the largest of its kind, has come and gone. But if you missed it, don’t fear! It will be back again in August 2019, and there are plenty more beer events scheduled between now and then. Just search online for “beer festivals Britain” and you’ll come across many helpful guides, like this Telegraph article on the top ten beer events and festival trends (it’s from 2015 but most of the events are still going strong, three years later). Or check out this list from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) that lets you search for beer festivals by radius, region, event type and date.
Craft Beer Festival Marketing Tips
Beer Festival Tip #1: Get Organised (And Choose Quality over Quantity)
Today, there are seemingly endless options for beer festivals. While it’s tempting to think that the more festivals you bring your beer to, the better, there is a more strategic (and sane) way to go about it. Put some strategy behind your decision and fill your calendar with the best possible events for your unique brewery.
Here are a few factors to consider to help guide your decisions.
- Location, location, location: How far are you willing to travel to attend a festival? Logistics aside, look for festivals in areas where your beer is distributed and available for purchase. It might not make the most business sense to travel across the country to introduce new customers to your beer if they can’t find and purchase it after the festival ends. Look for local events, at least at the onset as you expand your footprint. The most popular festivals book early, so reach out in plenty of time to secure your booth space.
- Length: Do you want to attend a one-day event or are you looking for more exposure over the course of a long weekend or even week-long festival? Decide what’s best for you and narrow your search by festival length.
- Cost: What is your budget for a festival? Most festivals will charge you a fee for your booth or stall, and you’ll also want to plan to have the right beer swag on hand to make the most of it. Estimate what you can spend over the course of the season and identify those festivals that will give you the greatest return.
- Resources: Do you have the necessary staff to help you run an efficient booth? Think through how much help you’ll need and take a look at your employee schedule. You may need to enlist extra help, which could just be a matter of asking your friends and fans to pitch in.
- Festival niche: To make the most of the season, look for established events that are sure to draw large crowds. Do some research on special themes, too. For example, if your brewery is launching a new cider or stout, look for a festival that specialises in those styles. As an example, a site called Confidentials writes about the “most niche beer festival” in Manchester, a five day “celebration of all that is sour and Lambic.” Do some research and commit to the events where you know you will find the right fans.
- Awards and recognition: If you’re having trouble deciding which of the many festivals to attend, consider leaning towards those that have a beer competition or award component. Sometimes these awards are voted on by visitors, other times, beer experts are on hand to sample and select the top beers being served at the event. There is tremendous marketing potential for your brewery in these awards, whether you receive an honourable mention or you take home the grand prize.
Beer Festival Tip #2: Promote your Stand & Build Buzz
Once you’ve decided on the best beer festivals for your brewery, the next step is to let everyone know about it. Here are a few tactics to help with your promotion.
- Social Media: As soon as the list of breweries is announced by the festival organisers, start sharing updates on your social media channels. Use videos to pique interest in your stand – you could film the journey of getting ready for the festival and setting up your stand in a compelling time lapse video. Consider tasking one of your tap room employees or an enterprising local student (and beer enthusiast) to help with this project. Don’t forget to use the festival hashtag in all of your posts to help reach a wider audience. And, when people comment on your post or ask questions, respond swiftly in a fun, conversational way to encourage more engagement.
- Website: If you don’t already have an “events” or “where to find us” section on your website, add it now! Include helpful information about the festival such as a map to the event or links to purchase festival tickets. And don’t forget to mention your stand number, so people know exactly where to find you.
- Press and coverage: Blog about your participation! Highlighting the reasons why you’re excited about the festival will help get your customers excited too. Tease any special beers that you’ll be launching at the festival and give a preview of some of the beer swag you’ll be offering. You could also draft a short press release and send it to media outlets. Do some research on the local beer writing community and pitch a story with a fresh angle and fun photos of your brewery staff. As a start, here’s a list of the top ten UK beer blogs including Beer Yeti, a “beer culture” site with great reviews of area festivals, and others, like Beer Today and Beer Leeds. Ideas for topics might be what makes your beer special, or, tell the story of how you started your brewery. Does your brewmaster have an interesting story to tell? A unique hobby? Highlight some of the exciting new things you’ll have at your booth, like food pairings, raffles or cool merchandise that can only be purchased on site at the festival.
- Email Marketing: Be sure to target people who are already in your circle. Send a special email to your customer list to break the exciting news and give them first crack at purchasing tickets. Entice them with a reason to attend, whether that’s cool beer swag, a special “VIP” tent or a free tasting, just for them. Use the festival as a means to grow this list, too. Ask people to sign up for your brewery communications over social media and enter everyone who does into a special raffle for free festival tickets or other prizes.
Beer Festival Tip #3: Stock your Stand with Swag
When it comes to beer festivals, It’s all about that booth! A well-situated, well-branded and well-stocked booth is key to success at the beer festival. If you can select your booth location, look for one in a high-trafficked area – prime spots may be near stages, entrance ways or eating areas. It may cost a little extra for the real estate, but it’s worth it, especially at larger festivals where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
It’s also as much about what you have at your booth. Obviously, beer! Beyond that, though, what kind of beer swag will you sell or give away? Great merchandise will go long way at beer festivals to draw people in and give them something to bring home to remember you by.
Here are a few ideas from our beer festival vault:
- Beer Koozies: Especially for summer festivals, help visitors keep their beers cold with a custom branded koozie.
- Totes: Functional and fun reusable bags are perfect for letting visitors carry around their cool swag and bring your beer brand with them everywhere they go.
- T-shirts: These are beer festival staples – help yours stand out with a creative custom design or funny saying!
- Caps: Hats and caps offer a little something different for apparel. Look for caps in the summer and think about winter hats for fall events.
- Keyrings and beer pins: Smaller sized items are perfect for visitors on the move. They also make great take-home souvenirs and gifts.
Beer Festival Tip #4: Don’t Forget the Freebies
It’s always good practice to have some freebies at your stand to entice visitors and help build brand awareness. Look for low-cost options that deliver a big impact, like these ideas:
- Everyone loves a free badge! Keep button badges front and center in your stall and watch people pin them on and become a walking advert for your beer.
- Stickers are a great low-cost option for spreading your brand message. In fact, many festivals are becoming increasingly family-friendly to appeal to more people. Plan to have something non-beer related for kids; mum and dad will appreciate the thoughtful touch!
- And remember, fun is always free! Plan engaging raffle prizes or games like pub trivia quizzes to really draw people into your booth.
Beer Festival Tip #5: Make your Own
Not finding the perfect beer festival for your brewery? Don’t give up, get DIY and throw your own celebration! To keep costs down, start small and consider hosting it at your brewery or pub. Arrange for special discounts or free samples, sell or give away special beer merchandise and think about ways you could enlist help from your friends and network, perhaps with media coverage or in hiring a local band.
Hosting an event, big or small, is a great way to get new people in the door. Offer free tours of your brewery and send people home with souvenirs to remember the event by. Who knows, it could be the start of something great for years to come! (#BeerFestivalFact: Did you know that 2018 marked the 41st anniversary for the Great British Beer Festival? Now that’s a sign of customer enthusiasm!) Find a creative niche to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. For example, why not plan a mid-winter festival in a heated tent outside of your brewery?
Beer Festival Tip #5: Will Travel for Beer
Looking to build your brand outside of the UK? Why not seek an international beer festival as a way to test the market for your import. However, if you can’t haul your booth and beer products across the globe, consider attending in the name of networking and research (and a holiday).
There’s the Toer de Geuze, which is an actual tour of breweries in Belgium. It only happens every other year, but you’re in luck – the next one is around the corner in May 2019, as are many Oktoberfest celebrations. Do some research and start planning now. For more, check out this list of international beer festivals from Uproxx.
Last, we leave with you a simple #BeerFestivalFact: People love them. We hope this guide gives you some ideas and tips to make the most of the season and build a loyal following for your beer. At Rocket Badge, we’re experienced patrons of many a festival; please get in touch with us today to talk through your ideas. We’d love to hear what festivals you have on your radar. Good luck, and cheers!