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Opinion: Small Brewery Sunday is missing the mark.

The initiative was a flop this year, but I truly believe it can succeed with some tweaking.

Note: Before we begin this opinion piece, let me start by saying that I intend for this post to be received as constructive criticism.  While I disagree with the Brewers Association’s definition of a “craft brewery”, I do believe they do a great job of promoting and protecting our nation’s independent craft breweries.

With that said, they are truly missing the mark on their Small Brewery Sunday initiative, and I want to offer some suggestions that I believe will help it succeed in future years.

This past Sunday, small breweries around the country celebrated Small Brewery Sunday, an initiative started in 2018 by the Brewers Association (BA), the nation’s largest organization to promote and protect America’s independent craft breweries.  A one-day event, the goal is to drive folks to their local, small breweries during the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday.  Being as lots of alcohol is consumer during this week/weekend, you would think that this event would’ve been a smashing success?  However, it wasn’t.

In the days and hours leading up to the event, I noticed that many small breweries were sharing some beautiful, pre-made #SmallBrewerySunday digital assets on their social media pages.  Later that day, I anticipated seeing loads of #SmallBrewerySunday posts on my timeline.. it never happened.  In fact, most brewery owners complained that their sales on Small Brewery Sunday were actually LESS than a normal Sunday.

So, I went to our Facebook group and decided to poll the crowd to see if Small Brewery Sunday was a success or not from their vantage point.  Was this bad day in taprooms a fluke thing?  Did the Steeler game/NFL Sunday impact things?  Maybe I just missed some major news event that kept everyone away from the taprooms this year?

The result of this survey was simple:  Small Brewery Sunday didn’t work and it didn’t work because nobody knew about it.

The Results of The Survey

We asked the brewery owners and employees in our Facebook group to tell us if their brewery saw an uptick in sales on Small Brewery Sunday.  To accomplish this, we put out a simple poll for them to complete.  This poll had three options to choose from:  Yes, No or What’s Small Brewery Sunday?.

The results of the poll looked like this:

  • 35% of the voters said their taproom DID NOT see an increase in sales.
  • 58% of voters responded “What’s Small Brewery Sunday?”
  • 5% of voters added that their local breweries weren’t open this past Sunday.
  • And only 2% of breweries saw an increase in sales on Small Brewery Sunday.

In short:  Small Brewery Sunday wasn’t a success.

So let’s dive in an talk about some reasons why it didn’t work and some suggestions I have for making it work…

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Reasons I believe Small Brewery Sunday wasn’t successful

There’s probably a few reasons that I’m missing here, however, I believe these reasons listed below are the top reasons why Small Brewery Sunday wasn’t as successful as, I assume, the Brewers Association would have liked.

1. They hold it on a very busy week for spending.

Now in it’s third year, Small Brewery Sunday occurs each year on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.  While there’s typically a lot of alcohol consumed, and money spent, during this week, there’s also A LOT of other ways folks can spend their money during this time.

My dad always said “there’s only so much milk you can get from a cow”, and that’s very true here.  Folks only have so many dollars to spend and you’re competing with Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday for those dollars.  If I were to rank the post-Thanksgiving events in order of necessity for the consumer that week, I’d say Small Brewery Sunday would easily be ranked last by conusmers.

2. There’s little in the way of public awareness.

58 percent of the folks we polled had never heard of Small Brewery Sunday.  58 percent!  This tells me that there’s a large disconnect between the initiative and the general public (who they are trying to encourage to come out and support these breweries).

Sure, it takes a while for initiatives like this to catch on with the general public, however, the event is currently in it’s third year.  We would expect that after three years of advertising, this event would be much more well-known.

3. It’s held on a day when folks are very busy.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is a day when many folks are travelling, whether to or from their holiday gathering places.  It’s also a time when the general public is preparing to head back to school, head back to work, get their houses cleaned from the holidays, begin shopping,  etc.  Spending time at a brewery is likely one of the last things on their mind that day.

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How they can make Small Brewery Sunday successful

While I’m sure a lot of folks will disagree with some of my suggestions, I wanted to offer up a few ideas that I think will help the event succeed in future years.  Here’s a few…

1. Change the date of the event

Instead of competing for consumer’s dollars, the BA should consider moving the event to another weekend, where it doesn’t have to worry about competition.  Let the event have it’s own weekend and be the centerpiece of the consumer’s focus for that weekend.

2. Spread awareness to the general public

With so few consumers even knowing about the event, it’s hard to imagine it can ever be successful as it currently sits.  The BA needs to do more to spread awareness of the initiative to the folks who they are trying to target.  While I know they have created some great digital assets for the breweries to use, I think it would be a good idea to start spreading those assets as early as possible to help drum up demand and get on consumer’s calendars before other events do.

3. Consider a nationwide beer collaboration

A nationwide beer collaboration would be a great way to pull the breweries in America together for a just cause.  This has been true in many previous nationwide beer collaborations in the past.  This would help with public awareness as well as giving folks a reason to come out to the taprooms that day (to try the beer, that is).

There’s also a lot of very small breweries out there who can not offer canned beer to-go, as they don’t own a canning line/system.  The Brewers Association could reach out to larger breweries to create brew a large batch of a “Small Brewery Sunday” beer, in cans and draft, and offer it to small breweries at an attractive price to help them not only spread awareness about the event, but fuel some taproom sales both on-premise and off.

4. More supporting assets

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We found out that the Brewers Association did have a Promotional Toolkit for this event, however, we’re not sure a lot of breweries knew that it existed.  This promotional toolkit contained digital assets, plug-n-play press releases for breweries to use, social media copy, etc.  These are great for promotion, however, it seems they were very under-utilized by the breweries.  Letting the breweries know these exist will be a big help in future years.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think Small Brewery Sunday could be a very successful initiative for the Brewers Association, however, it just needs a little more fine-tuning and tweaking to make it fly.  It’s my hope that some of these suggestions I made in this article can help in future years.

Cheers, yinz!

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