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By Clare Goggin Sivits On June 6, 2022

How to Make the Most of Consumer-Facing Events

Two women work the booth for 30A Distilling Co. during a consumer-facing event where the craft spirits brand is marketing the brand.
Captured at Pier Park, Florida on 3 19, 2022 by Kassady Gibson, Focus Creative Group LLC

Sponsoring or attending craft spirits-focused events often seems like a big investment. It requires money, time and resources — all of which may be limited for a craft distillery. However, these events can also be an excellent opportunity to boost your beverage marketing to a higher level.

If your distillery has the bandwidth to take its spirits to an expo, fair, fest or another consumer-facing event, there are a number of options to consider. And as you plan out your sponsorship, consider these methods for further extending your marketing efforts and getting a little more bang for your buck.

Show Off Your Brand

Any event sponsorship comes with an opportunity to showcase your spirits. This is where your distillery really needs to consider how to put its best foot forward. That may mean creating assets, like posters or banners, that promote your spirits brand and products. You may also want to incorporate branded table runners, brochures, menus and other items that could decorate a booth or table.

When developing these assets, start well ahead of time to make sure you’re not rushing their completion. And aim to create items that can be used for other purposes as well. This way, you can reuse them for other appearances later without spending more money and time.

Design Merchandise & Swag

In addition to assets you’ll use to deck out a booth or table, it’s also wise to bring along merchandise. This should include T-shirts, hats, glasses or any other small items you can give away to consumers visiting your booth. Merchandise can be used to lure people to your brand at the event or to spread awareness throughout the venue by having reps work the crowd and hand them out to potential customers.

After the event has ended, that merchandise will continue to work for you. Individuals wearing your T-shirts or hats will introduce your spirits to those who see them. It extends your reach outside of the event to a wider network of consumers who may also be interested in trying your spirits.

Promote It Digitally

Far too often, digital and social media promotion is an afterthought when it comes to event promotion. However, this needs to be planned out as thoroughly as every other piece of the puzzle. A solid digital event marketing plan can not only promote your distillery’s presence at the event, but also reach a wider audience.

First, layout how you’ll be informing that primary audience — event attendees — of your upcoming appearance at said event. Add the organizer’s Facebook event to your page, create content for social media leading up to the event, email your subscribers in the geographical area near the event (and do this while there’s still time for them to buy tickets), and notify relevant press contacts who may be in attendance. You may even consider writing a blog post about the upcoming event if there’s an interesting angle to it: perhaps you’re introducing a new spirit or featuring a unique cocktail at your booth.

During the event, share the experience through your social channels. Show off the booth and merchandise you worked so hard to develop. Showcase the spirits being poured at an expo. Give your followers a sneak peek of the event and all the reasons they should be experiencing FOMO, like exclusive tastings and gourmet dinners. And don’t forget to take lots of photos of your spirits both at the venue and in other interesting settings. You’ll be able to use these photos for promotional purposes long after the event has ended.

Assemble The Right Team

You’ve put a lot of time into considering how to showcase your brand at the event. Don’t forget to carefully consider who and what you’ll be sending. With the right representatives, your brand’s presence can be even more powerful. You may want to send a distiller who can discuss how the spirits are made, a marketing person who knows all the taglines, a salesperson who can meet with distributor reps, retailers or even consumers to sell more product, or some other combination of distillery employees.

Additionally, be thoughtful about what products you’re sending, if you have a large portfolio. You’ll want spirits that will appeal to the audience at the event. Perhaps you want to send a brand new release along with a few of your best sellers to keep the fans happy.

Once you know the people and products you’ll be sending, plan out traveling agendas and shipping logistics. You want to make sure everyone arrives on time and with a clear understanding of what they’re promoting.

Choose Events Wisely

When determining which event to sponsor, you’ll want to take a closer look at the relevant expos, festivals and fairs to find the one that fits your distillery’s brand best. The elements you need to look at include the location, the type of audience it attracts, and the overall theme. For instance, perhaps you’d like to sell more of your spirits into bars in the New York area. In that case, you might consider Bar Convent Brooklyn, a trade fair that attracts the big players of the bar and beverage industry in New York City.

A few other great events to consider include:

  • The Craft Spirits Carnival in San Francisco brings 200 boutique, family-owned and independent distillers to California for tastings alongside specialty foods, art and music.
  • Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans is the world’s premier cocktail festival, lasting for five days and highlighting cocktail trends and innovations.
  • Indie Spirits Expo in Chicago consists of seven days of unique tastings at locations all over the city, including exclusive distiller-led tastings, restaurant takeovers and more.
  • WhiskyFest takes place in Hollywood, Florida this October followed by events in Chicago, New York and San Francisco through November and December. The fest attracts whiskey enthusiasts to sample more than 200 rare and exclusive whiskies as well as gourmet eats and seminars taught by experts.
  • Seattle World Whiskey Day draws whiskey lovers who want to taste bourbons, ryes and single malts from near and far. Whiskey producers can also pour additional spirits, such as vodkas and gins, alongside their whiskey offerings.

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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