The adult beverage industry is in a race to the bottom (in terms of calories and carb totals) in an attempt to appeal to healthier-minded consumers who also like to have fun. Sessions, ciders, hard seltzers, non-alcoholic THC beverages and cleverly gimmicked low-cal beers. The growing lifestyle customer segment is a worthy one to pursue, but I’m not sure slimming the product quite accomplishes this. Alcohol — no matter the calorie count, and despite the fruits and veggies now appearing on labels — isn’t what a doctor would ever call “good for you.”
Spoiler alert: Alcohol is a drug. And shit, it better be, or I’ll quit drinking it. Alcoholic beverages shouldn’t have to contort themselves into being “healthier” in order to play a role in supporting one’s health. The real opportunity for breweries, I think, is in terms of boosting overall well being. Beer’s primary function is a pleasing vice and social lubricant, so own it, and emphasize its (and your brewery’s) connection to the community in order to promote/facilitate a more well rounded, less stressful, healthier lifestyle for regular patrons. You just might form a stronger bond with those lifestyle customers than you would by chasing them with a watered down version of your core product.
Linking your beer or brand with something actually healthy
Example just yesterday: Outdoor performance brand Merrell and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery launched a cobranded trail running shoe inspired by two of their shared passions: the outdoors and beer. They come in a “SeaQuench” colorway and look slick as hell.
“Today’s adventurous beer drinker is seeking more from their alcoholic beverages than ever before,” stated Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head. “They’re looking for a beer that’s not only intensely flavorful, but that fits into their active lifestyle. Brewed with black limes, sour lime juice and sea salt, the thirst-slaying, citrusy-tart mashup that is SeaQuench Ale satisfies all those needs,”
So, OK, a shoe that has the awesome colorway of a popular beer. Big whoop. But there is more here. There is an intention. Since both companies believe wild spaces urgently need to be sustained and protected, the cobranded shoes are made with reclaimed scrap rubber, BLOOM algae foam instead of petroleum, recycled plastic, and more. Also, Merrell will be donating $10,000 to The Conservation Alliance, whose mission is to engage businesses to fund & partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values.
There are of course a plethora of other examples around the craft beer industry. One of the most well recognized logos in the industry is a freaking bicycle, for pete’s sake:
But why stop here?
The role of pubs in promoting local sport
A report from the United Kingdom this week makes a big case for pubs playing a role in promoting activities, “providing a lifeline for grassroots sport, worth an estimated £40 million a year in financial and in kind support.”
Grassroots sports here means local football clubs and cricket teams but also those promoting competitive bar games (ranked No. 2 with 30 percent of the total support). The support — either in money or in kind — equates to an average annual donation from each pub of £1,025 (US$ 1,266). This research was undertaken for PubAid, an organization that promotes the good work done by pubs across the UK and was supported by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
Now, of course, bars here in the U.S. play a big role in catering to a local sports watching culture too, and those televised games are packed with adult beverage ads and logos. Big and small breweries alike also sponsor NASCARs and hockey arenas and wacky minor league sports gimmicks too. The marketing overlap is there, but there is a deeper, more active connection to be made here:
“Funding at a grassroots level is one of the biggest concerns for sport and recreation clubs across the country,” explains Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance. “Looking at innovative, engaging ways to connect with the local community is an excellent way of making clubs financially stable and, in turn, allowing them to support a local industry. We’re delighted to see such a vast range of sport and recreation activities benefiting from these relationships.”
Beer can help form a community of any kind
Disclaimer if it isn’t obvious: That research pertained specifically to United Kingdom, and its pub and sports culture is different than here in the U.S. I mean, they call them “pubs” and “grassroots sport,” so it might be a stretch to draw a connection, but stretch it I will (stretching is good for you, after all).
I think this U.K. report proves out my thesis from the start: Beer and bars can play an integral role in healthy living by A) promoting community (something breweries are already great at), B) supporting active/social lifestyles and C) getting us all buzzed so we actually relax, participate and enjoy A and B.
Hey, the craft beer industry is entirely based on carrying over European traditions and giving them a U.S. spin, right? So why not do the same with “grassroot sports” support (specifically my bocce league in Canton, Ohio. What do you say Fat Head’s? Royal Docks? Shale?). I don’t have a U.S.-based report to support this, but there are certainly a ton of examples across the U.S. of a similar blending of beer and sporting/lifestyle culture too, with breweries hosting everything from regular yoga practices to annual boxing events or just generally pairing their brands with local hiking/biking/skiing culture.
In short, beer, just do you. Or, as Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, puts it: “The PubAid report showcases the vital role pubs play in helping grassroots sports teams to compete across the UK and to encourage sports participation and physical activity which is so vital to our health and wellbeing.”