I was intrigued to hear about the fiasco at the British Institute of Innkeeping’s Scottish award ceremony recently. In a clear case of an industry giant flexing its muscles against a smaller rival, the events went something like this:
BrewDog, the iconic Scottish brewery based in Aberdeen, was chosen to receive the prize for ‘Bar Operator of the Year’. Tipped off that they might be in line for a major award, they arrived, suited and booted, at the ceremony. However the event was sponsored by Diageo, the world’s largest distiller and maker of Guinness, Johnny Walker whiskey and Smirnoff vodka. Diageo apparently took great exception to the award being given to BrewDog, and during the meal they threatened to withdraw their sponsorship if BrewDog was announced as the winner. To the amazement of BrewDog and the judges alike, the BII Scotland folks at the ceremony succumbed to the pressure, and the award was presented to someone else. To make matters worse, it is reported that the trophy actually had BrewDog’s name already engraved upon it, and the new winners refused to accept it!
BrewDog, self-styled ‘punk’ brewery that has been producing a popular range of craft beers since 2007, is well known for its controversial style and approach to marketing. Producer of ‘the world’s strongest beer’, the company doesn’t flinch from using new and unusual ways to promote itself and its products.
The fiasco at the awards ceremony, however, turned out to be a marketing gift to BrewDog, who was able to turn it to its own advantage and wage a PR campaign against Diageo that was reported widely in the British national press, and in the blogosphere the world over. Always keen to support the underdog (!) the British public came out in vocal support of BrewDog and were keen to condemn what was seen as the bullying antics of the drinks giant. A Twitter storm erupted, and BrewDog’s tweets under the inspired hashtag #AndTheWinnerIsNot went viral.
Diageo has issued a brief apology, citing a ‘serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner…’ but it looks like the feud between BrewDog and Diageo is set to run and run.
BrewDog is a brand that polarises opinion, and with its outspoken views and use of shock tactics to promote the brand, people seem either to love or hate it. However, regardless of your feelings about BrewDog, it’s clear that that it was very poorly treated by Diageo over this outrageous incident. Whatever Diageo’s motives for this piece of sharp practice, it was very clearly misguided and has shot itself in the foot – the negative publicity it has received will hurt for some time to come.
Poor show, Diageo !