Beer brands have been building strategic partnerships for as long as beer has been commercialized. Since the first time Clydesdale horses carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer from Budweiser’s St. Louis brewery in 1933.
Beer is a symbol of celebration and shared experiences. Partnerships with beer companies form when the alliance has something to celebrate collectively and the relationship adds new sources of value for the stakeholders. But do all beer partnerships make sense?
Consider these factors when developing a partnership with a beer brand, no matter how big or small the brewery.
Is there a drinking occasion connected to the property?
The #1 beer objective is to sell beer and so partnerships should consider the size of the opportunity to sample and sell beer when considering partnerships.
If it is a drinking occasion, the strength of potential beer sales must be considered. The number of opportunities to purchase beer, the limitations to consuming or selling alcohol and the frequency of product consumption should be taken into account when forecasting the volume that will be achieved through a partnership.
Beer has long been a popular alcoholic beverage and is particularly tied to certain celebratory occasions such as sports and music.
Case Study 1: Molson Canadian is the official beer of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Watching professional sports has long been an occasion for drinking beer, with loyal fans celebrating the wins and dealing with the losses of their favourite hockey team with a nice cold one. This fact provided significant opportunity for Molson Canadian to capitalize on selling more beer. Through partnership with MLSE, Molson Canadian earned exclusive rights at the Air Canada Centre which has bars and quick service restaurants serving beer scattered throughout and 100+ private lounges or suites serving direct to consumer. Molson Canadian printed special cans for the most recent Leaf’s playoff season and capitalized on the loyalty of the fans to bring the Leaf’s special branded beers cans home from retail.
In Molson Canadian’s case, the partnership maximized the level of opportunity and frequency in which a consumer can purchase Molson Canadian at live sports events and at home in front of a television screen. For the Maple Leafs, Molson runs activations and special programs for new and existing fans to support fan engagement and increase viewership. This past season, Molson Canadian did a VR experience for fans to feel like they have front row seats at a Leafs game simply by downloading an app and using the cardboard insert in all 24-packs of Molson Canadian.
Is it the right audience?
Beer partnerships make sense when you are catering to a crowd who loves beer. With wine and spirits growing in popularity and an increased consciousness for healthy products, beer has had to stay true to their dedicated audience while innovating lighter or non-traditional product options to suit different audiences.
Case Study 2: Stella Artois partnered with Canadian meal planning kit brand, Chef’s Plate to deliver Stella Artois beers to customers who select a specific food option, designed by a premier chef in Toronto that pairs the food with the optimal beverage to enjoy their meal with. Stella Artois and Chef’s Plate serve mid to upper income audiences who enjoy premium products and thus Chef’s Plate serves as a new channel for Stella Artois, and Stella Artois provides a value-added product to the Chef’s Plate service.
How far can this brand partnership reach?
Many partnerships form without considering the reach and communication required to drive awareness. Understanding the available channels that can be leveraged through a partnership is very important. For a brand lacking a strong digital presence, teaming up with a property with a large engaged online audience is an efficient way of reaching a targeted audience digitally. A strong beer partnership should be a holistic relationship where all available channels are explored to support the objectives of both parties.
Case Study 3: Steam Whistle partnered with the Hudson’s Bay Company on a joint Canada150 merchandising program to share and elevate the rich Canadian history of both companies. For Hudson’s Bay, the program allowed the retailer to move beyond their existing brick-and-mortar and digital channels and enter fast-moving, high volume alcohol retail channels for limited time, expanding the eyes on the iconic Hudson’s Bay stripes. For Steam Whistle, the partnership allowed the beer brand to enter an iconic department store selling premium quality merchandise and reaching a widespread audience. Premium merchandise was co-branded by Stream Whistle and Hudson’s Bay and sold in stores and prized in beer cases across Ontario. These co-branded products likely created a new source of revenue for both partners and allowed the brands to enter new channels.
Are brand personas aligned?
Brands who have the same or similar values, whose core messages are aligned and who serve similar target audiences would have a nice overlap in goals and interests which would make a partnership easier to consummate. More synergies tend to exist and co-branding products or services could be drivers for new sources of value.
Case Study 4: Ace Hill recently partnered with Porter Airlines to become the exclusive beer on Porter Flights. The partnership will allow Ace Hill to be the beer of choice for their complimentary in-flight beverage service and will provide an unparalleled sampling opportunity for Porter customers who value quality and streamlined service. “Porter is well known for providing a distinct, fresh and award-winning inflight service offering,” said Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “We always seek to partner with brands that provide quality products reflecting our unique experience. We recognize those similarities with Ace Hill and look forward to developing our relationship in the coming years.”
Is it scalable?
Partnerships can serve both short term and long term objectives depending on the scale of the brands and properties. For certain partnerships like Steam Whistle and Hudson’s Bay with a seasonal merchandising program, the partnership may be viewed as short term. For partnerships like Ace Hill becoming the exclusive beer of a premium airline in Canada and the USA, the forecast and long term outlook scales much larger when considering long term business objectives. Understand the goals and objectives of a partnership, have a pulse on the perceived tenure and uncover synergies to find new sources of growth for all stakeholders in the partnership.