World Beer Festivals

The World Beer Festivals are mega, public beer-tasting events, promoted by All About Beer Magazine, an internationally-distributed magazine.  They are modeled after the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and take place in a stadium, a downtown park, and a convention center.  The original festival in Durham has been operated for 16 years. 

Since the Durham festival was started, AAB  added Raleigh, NC (eight years running), then Columbia, SC (four years running), and Richmond, VA (which was abandoned after one year).  Raleigh and Durham sell out – 4200 paid attendees per session – and Columbia last had approx. 3975 total attendees.  At these events, 100-125 different breweries have tasting tables with two to five different beer styles, amounting to an amazing selection and value.

I started with the festivals in June 2010, and as the Director of Events, I was responsible for:

  • Contracting the facility and handling all the required permits and city regulations
  • Obtaining the alcohol permit through the designated charity’s assistance
  • Spec-ing event services, getting bids, contracting and project managing fifteen+ vendors (tents, house staff, caterers, banner printers, bands, …) and city services
  • Handling online and outlet ticket sales
  • Orchestrating volunteer recruitment, training, and entitlements
  • Ordering all collateral (t-shirts, tasting and commemorative glasses)
  • Designing all the signage, compiling all the event program content
  • Financial control
  • Fulfilling sponsor entitlements, contracting media and service trades

Plus I handled the marketing, which included:

  • creating content for the web site
  • copywriting all ads
  • working with a graphic artist and a variety of printers
  • negotiating and contracting media
  • writing radio spots
  • handling community outreach efforts
  • writing and distributing email newsletters
  • organizing promotional events

The logistics for each event were challenging, to say the least.  In each city, there was a different set of event services, city departments and regulations, and facility features.  Plus, we relied on volunteer labor to help assemble and operate the festival.

But I relished the marketing and community outreach efforts.  Using my vision, I was able to portray the experience and reach our real prospects, and energize stakeholders and media partners to be extremely effective.  I was also able to test my abilities to: communicate the information and tone appropriately; manage multiple channels; and organize the campaign progression.  The tactics I employed included:

  • street teams
  • Facebook posts
  • Internet marketing
  • in-store promotions
  • ads in the weekly entertainment magazine
  • exhibit space at public events
  • advance events/beer tastings
  • sponsor social media networks
  • posters, table tents, business cards
  • press releases, media alerts
  • press conferences
  • web site banner ads
  • media kits (home beer tasting kits)
  • bloggers

The festivals are amazing to experience – thousands of enthusiastic beer drinkers, sampling beer and jawing with the crazy brewery reps, the bands, the outdoor festival setting.  For me, creating partnerships with community groups, was my source of satisfaction.  I am grateful to all of my partners – sponsors, volunteers, PR professionals, media, CVBs, and the brew crews – in all four cities, for their enthusiastic support.

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