How do you respond when a celebrity gives one of your largest competitors a massive marketing jolt?
That was the question many craft breweries were likely asking themselves after Super Bowl 50. During his post-game interviews, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning nonchalantly name-dropped Budweiser--saying things like "how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth"--following the Broncos' victory. By some estimates, Manning's unsolicited mentions were worth as much as $14 million in free media exposure for the Anheuser-Busch InBev brand, which owns Bud and Bud Light.
The day after the Super Bowl, the Brewers Association responded with some marketing might of its own. Specifically, the industry group--which is based in Boulder, Colorado, and represents a majority of U.S. craft brewers--mailed two care packages to Manning. The packages included the 10 U.S.-made craft beers pictured above. Six of those beers are from Colorado, emphasizing to Manning how much craft beer is in his own backyard.
Why two packages? Mainly to be sure Manning would receive them. According to Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, one was sent to Manning at the Broncos' headquarters in Englewood. The other was sent to Manning's agent in New York City. "We're just providing him with some beer diversity," says Herz. "Which we think is important, when an NFL player says they're going to drink one specific beer. We believe in different beers for different occasions."
The packages also included a letter to Manning, which read: "To help you celebrate, we wanted to share some craft beers from the over 4,100 small and independent craft brewers in Colorado and beyond. These indie brewers represent the ethic and integrity that makes our country so great and are also worthy of support. We've included a variety of choices for you to enjoy. During the off-season, we'd invite you to visit your local craft brewery and learn more about the booming craft brewing community, which has been scoring touchdowns with millions upon millions of beer lovers."
Herz says she is thrilled with how the marketing move has paid off for the Brewers Association. First and foremost, many of the craft brewers that are members of the organization reached out to say thank you. The 10 craft brewers included in the care package were especially pleased at the national exposure they received. For example, the letter to Manning received coverage through USA Today, Yahoo, ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, and several local newspapers. Ian Rapoport, a reporter for the NFL Network and NFL.com, tweeted the letter to his 971,000 followers.
The marketing lessons here are straightforward. To begin with, the Brewers Association responded. It didn't bury its heads in the sand and pretend the Manning name-dropping never happened. Easy as it would've been to ignore the moment and let it pass like everything else in the Super Bowl news cycle, the Brewers Association acknowledged the reality. Second, it used the moment as a chance to engage and unite its already tight base of craft brewers.
The point is, by playing your cards right, you can turn a marketing coup for your competitor into a masterstroke for your own organization.