Over the past five years, we’ve seen an influx in brands executing campaigns and programs to connect with their target audiences. From large branded skating rinks on the rooftop of skyscrapers to a talking tap-head sitting on a store shelf, or patriotic viral videos and exclusive events held at secret venues, beer brands have grabbed the experiential concept by the horns to make noise in the market.
When the pioneer of American craft beer, Samuel Adams, made its way into Canada, they ran their mainstream consumer activations as a beer brand would. However, what set them apart from other hoppy beverages is that they pulled the reigns in to execute programs focused on building and maintaining meaningful relationships within the food community across the country. Starting in 2014, Samuel Adams implemented programs that consisted of restaurant collaborations, brand advocacy, recipe creation, a city-wide food experience and sponsorships (big and small) for a variety of food-driven initiatives from coast to coast.
Both the Restaurant Takeover and Collaborative Dinners series were Social Marketing initiatives designed to create and nurture relationships between the restaurants across Canada and Samuel Adams while increasing brand loyalty and customer advocacy. Each event was unique and customized to compliment the restaurant’s brand, personality, menu offerings and most importantly their clientele. Whether it was a series of game nights, annual cultural traditions or it was co-hosted by the venue’s executive chef and a celebrity chef, like Canadian best-selling cookbook author, Matt Dean Pettit, where they created a unique menu that celebrated the craft beer. These series became thoughtful content for the brand, built brand advocacy, involved the sales team and resulted in guaranteed sales.
The beauty about the food community is that there are a variety of influencers who gravitate towards certain brands and become authentic advocates; be it a blogger, recipe developer, or even a chef. For a year, Samuel Adams partnered up with six of Toronto’s chefs aka the “Chef 6-Pack;” Jason Bangerter (Langdon Hall), Victory Barry (Piano Piano), Jonathan Goodyear (Magna), Craig Harding (Campagnolo), Cory Vitiello (Flock) and Cheese Master, Afrim Pristine (Cheese Boutique). Each took the beer’s flagship brew, Boston Lager, and created an artisan product to be served collectively on the Ultimate Holiday Charcuterie Board; Boston Lager Mustard, Boston Lager Braised & Smoked Brisket, Boston Lager Stone Fruit Chutney, Boston Lager Pickled Veggies, Boston Lager Citrus & Gamey Pate and Boston Lager soaked cheese. To support the partnership, the chefs implemented a month-long promotion at their respective restaurants offering a dish that incorporated their product and was served alongside a pint of the golden lager. The program culminated in November with a media event that revealed a feast of meat, cheeses and beyond. The chefs sat among the guests telling the story of how the Boston Lager inspired their creations. The products became a sku inside Cheese Boutique and are now an inspiration for others to take the beer beyond the bottle.
Alongside this several ads throughout the year were placed in Ontario’s LCBO Food & Drink magazine which complimented the program and highlighted the extraordinary talents and their creations. All of which were an integral part of the out-of-home campaign.
Inspiration is key when a brand is striving to make an impact on their audience. Samuel Adams initiated advocate collaborations with recipe creators, food bloggers and photographers, through their Brand-In-Hand strategy. From this stemmed authentic sharable stories such as fun dishes and experiences that made sense for the advocate’s audience. These stories lived in-real-life and online which created conversation around the brand from Convince & Convert thinking to the direction of Converse & Convert.
TORONTO BBQ WEEK
In June 2016, for seven days, Samuel Adams partnered with ten Toronto restaurants to launch the first-ever Toronto BBQ Week. The restaurants were comprised of current licensees and accounts. Each restaurant offered one BBQ dish and one 16oz draught beer for $15. Customers received a guidebook and were encouraged to visit as many of the participating restaurants throughout the length of the event. The program was promoted through traditional and non-traditional channels, created conversations, garnered sales for both parties and most importantly fostered new relationships for the brand.
Over the years, Samuel Adams identified key moments where the Canadian food community gathered to celebrate its players and bounty such as Terroir Symposium, Toronto Curry Fest, Harvest Haus, Delicious Food Show, Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown, Toronto Beer Week and Canada’s 100 Best Awards. Rather than simply being present at each event by doling out 4oz of beer for tokens or a sample, the brand took it a step further by coming on as a festival sponsor. With this, they offered support for the extracurricular activations like providing product for chefs to use in demos, inspired menus for chef dinners or submitted recipes to the event’s accompanying publications. Each sponsorship was tailored to the event’s audience lending Samuel Adams a chance to reach a variety of foodies.
Through these innovative programs, Samuel Adams partnered with over 65 restaurants and chefs, and hundreds of influencers in the food community across Canada. Not only did each curated activation tell stories, sparked conversations, created diverse and shareable content, but over hundreds of relationships were planted to flourish.