• Laura L.

Best in Brew: Great American Beer Festival Edition

3 days. 1 love. Beer love. Bonus: it’s also in beautiful Denver, CO in October. What’s not to love about the Great American Beer Festival? Nothing. There is nothing to not love about #GABF.

Being the largest ticketed beer festival in the US, it hosts the widest variety of American craft beer in one place, over 9,700 beers to be exact from over 2,300 breweries. In its 38th year, the GABF is so massive, it requires the help of over 220 beer-loving volunteers. To say this event is important to all craft breweries and industry professionals is an understatement.

According to the 2018 Economic Impact Report of the Brewers Association, the craft brewing industry is booming more than ever before, contributing $79.1 billion to the U.S. economy and 560,000 jobs! Festivals like the Great American Beer Festival that celebrate the passion, art, science and economic impact of these visionaries and their businesses are critical to the continuation of educating consumers on craft beer.

If you know anything about the Great American Beer Festival, you know the beer competition and medals (bronze, silver, gold) are the heart of the festival. Winning an award is worth more than bragging rights to the brewer itself. It excites the entire brewery, hometown, even state. It can lead to increased sales of the winning-beer and others from that brewery.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in sales (since the GABF win),” Lone Tree Brewing Company president John Winter said. “People come into the taproom and say, ‘You guys won a medal, what was it again? I’d like to try it.’ Our distribution sales are also up 85%.”

Winning an award presents a huge opportunity for uncharted breweries to generate massive amounts of exposure for their brand and product. While the competition and awards are a core element of the event, we here at Hoppy Life Marketing believe there are other creative ways breweries are marketing themselves to generate significant amounts of mindshare and traffic at the Great American Beer Festival.

Instagram and Twitter are two of the best outlets for capturing and sharing event activities with both brand and event followers. And that is just where our search for Best in Brew #GABF marketing began. Armed with a handful of event hashtags, we were quickly able to see what was taking place from a brand standpoint as well as what attendees were engaging with and sharing with their own networks.

Like a good vacation, the getting there is half the fun. We saw a number of breweries capture behind-the-scenes content prior to the event’s start. From documenting the drive itself to un-crating and booth setup, followers had the opportunity to experience a different side of the festival. Devoid of pomp and shine, it’s the behind-the-scenes content that make the brewery relatable, human.

Our first Best in Brew award goes to Broken Compass Brewing. This mid-travel post from Broken Compass is not only subtly on brand, but it shows the real-life side of GABF. Add in a standout backdrop and it makes us wish we were hopping in that van with them.

Deep Ellum Brewing shared a series of Instagram stories showing the uncrating, setup and finished product of their booth. Just as a fresh-hopped beer in a clean glass is easy to appreciate, the same applies to a finished sparkling booth. But the behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to actually build the brewery’s GABF stage makes us appreciate that Dallas Blonde and the Deep Ellum crew that much more.

Everyone knows driving traffic to a booth is an essential part of any festival or tradeshow marketing plan. However, it’s not uncommon to see brands rush to slap up a piece of poorly lit and unengaging piece of content saying something like “come visit us at booth 512.” While it shouldn’t be an afterthought, oftentimes bandwidth of actual event setup and travel get in the way, leaving a brand with no time to develop a creative post.

We loved this creative image overlay from Steady Hand Beer as it combines the iconic Big Blue Bear at the Denver Convention Center (location of GABF), the brand’s logo and the beers they will be offering at the festival. It’s colorful, eye-catching and will stop anyone in their scroll.

Other ways brands amped up awareness of the Great American Beer Festival included generating quality local and national media coverage. Somewhere in the Bible it states that it is a sin to not capture a behind-the-scenes shot of your fellow brewmate’s TV interview.

We love this shot of Avery Brewing’s team chatting it up with a local reporter. You can practically feel the anticipation of the festival and its energy. We also like how the cameraman is in the photo as it adds an additional layer of reality to the shot, making us feel like we’re right there in the interview.

Even though this post from Worst Beer Blog is a joke, it stopped us in our scroll and provided a chuckle. It’s funny because it’s true, right? Well-timed humor is social media gold.

The Great American Beer Festival promoted its show and encouraged attendees to line up early with their complimentary limited-run 2019 GABF Beer Love glasses and early access to show merch. We saw a few videos floating around of the free glasses as well – another awesome way to get potential show-goers excited about GABF.

Upon the opening of the show, the Great American Beer Festival account also shared this behind-the-scenes hype video showcasing all the effort and coordination that goes into the show. And if 4,000 beers weren’t enough to entice you to come out, they mic dropped with bag pipes. Overall, we thought GABF did an excellent job throughout the entire show. We felt like we were there along for the ride, only missing, well, the beers. But seriously, we could have highlighted dozens of their during and post-show posts, but these were some of our favorites as they had a real call to action behind them – join us at the event!!

Now that the GABF seal has been broken, a slurry of during-show posts flooded Instagram and Twitter. Posts from brands highlighted in-booth activities to drive traffic to their booth while posts from attendees bragged about their show presence, often displaying the very things brands were promoting on their posts. We love it when marketing works like that.

Dogfish Head and Oskar Blues were a couple of our favorites in terms of creating an in-booth experience for attendees to enjoy and tweet about. Creating a memorable experience for the show-goers is one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is activating those who experienced the event to share with their networks, driving further conversation around the brand and its products.

Oskar Blues knocked it out of the park with their silent disco. Not only was it a fun way to drive traffic to their booth, it aligned 100% with their brand and gave attendees something fun to talk about in between throwing back Dale’s Pale Ales. The photos and videos of the disco are full of movement and life, which translate well to Instagram. Oskar Blues also gets an extra mention for their dedicated GABF 2019 Instagram story highlight. It makes it so easy to follow all the fun activities and feel that much more connected to their team and brand. Awesome job, guys!

Dogfish Head leveraged their incredibly passionate and charismatic founder Sam Calagione as a way to drive traffic to their booth and generate organic conversations. Advertising selfies and high fives from Sam, this authentic interaction will not only leave a lasting impression on the booth visitor, but it’s something he or she will certainly share and highlight when they talk about Great American Beer Festival.

Other in-booth displays and attractions that top our Best in Brew list come from New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, the Canarchy Collective, and Resident Brewing. From digital social vids and an in-booth “mini bar” to the first ever brewing system (beer nerds, rejoice!) and temporary tattoos these experiences make the brands stand out in the sea of sameness.

As onlookers of the festival, we were so proud of the huge amount of creativity and work that went into brewery and festival promotions. For beer lovers and those in the industry, it was clearly a memorable event. Not only were the brand activations thoughtful and strategic, they were something attendees wanted to engage with and talk about. Win! Win! We are already looking forward to next year’s festival and all that entails!

For those still recovering…we hope your water bottles are full of the adultest drink of them all – water.

Congratulations to all our Best in Brew #GABF winners! If there was a brewery you expected to be on this list, but didn’t see, please send us an email at hello@hoppylifemarketing.com. We caught as much as we could, but likely didn’t catch it all.

Wondering what this Best in Brew Award is all about? Learn more here.

Cheers! Laura

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