Prizes Schmizes

It seems a rare thing nowadays for a beer not to have won a significant award and be shouting it loud and proud. ‘Winner! Taste of Eastmorland 2001’; ‘Winner! Borchestershire County Show, 1998’ or, actually, much more likely to be global in nature. The clues will be there: little golden gongs on the label, with indecipherable text and maybe a touch of spot varnish or embossing as a token of our pride. ‘Winner of the World Beer Cup, 2007’, or some such ceremony in Chicago dating back to, what, 1899? Forgive me if I come over as a touch cynical but these awards have always seemed like a Crufts ‘Best in Show’ award. Oh, I know they take a lot of effort to achieve, much pulling of hair and many a sleepless night; the equivalent of beery detangling and grooming no doubt, but, at the end of the day, they only really matter to other dog breeders. I own a Bitza* and she’s best in show for me, no matter what the bigwigs at The Kennel Club may say.

The truth is, the sparks that trigger a particular brand of beer to success and acclaim are more than the product alone. Not that having a distinctive product doesn’t help. Far from it in fact: many a GBBF winner has encountered production capacity challenges immediately as a result of winning an CAMRA award. But the slew of beer awards to date have only celebrated the beers – the liquids – not the significant other factors in the weave and weft in any brand’s DNA. Until now.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 16.22.05The Beer Marketing Awards, announced at the end of last year, will celebrate the marketing activity that has changed behaviour and attitudes of drinkers. Because even if you have a jaw-droppingly good beer, without others hearing about it, you might as well whistle in the wind. I remember Michael Jackson, dropping his head slightly and peering at me professorially over his glasses, and telling me (as a marketeer myself – and therefore a sub-species) that he didn’t like the idea of ‘brands’. For him, even using the term ceded too much influence to the marketeer over the brewer. Yet, ironically, what was Michael Jackson himself if not a great brand in the beer world: ‘The Beer Hunter’ tells you everything. Brands are critical, vital. In fact, brands are business. And marketing is their voice.

The Beer Marketing Awards are a step to rebalance the world of beer recognition and to celebrate more than the brewer alone in creating success. Have a look at the website of the competition to see the categories ( but be assured of this: this is not just a competition for big companies with big budgets. ‘Big budgets do not great marketing make’ as a former boss of mine used to say (a salesman in fact). Yes, the awards will celebrate traditional advertising, but the truth is in a tightening legislative world, it’s getting harder to make an impactful advert nowadays, and expensive too. So the awards also recognise social media, design, public relations, competitions, sponsorship…even a brewery’s merchandise. Every commercial brewer in other words does marketing; and every commercial brewery is eligible for the competition.

So take a look at the website and post your entry (deadline looming so don’t delay). Who knows, you may be able to feature it on your packaging in what…a hundred years from now?

* You know, ‘bitza’ this and ‘bitza’ that.

Disclaimer: David Preston, a.k.a. Beer Tinted Spectacles, is a judge of the 2014 UK Beer Marketing Awards, and this blog does represent his heartfelt views.

© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2015