Glazer’s operation in Columbus, Ohio represents a nice portfolio of crafts and imported beers, including Boston Brewing Co. products. Since Columbus is the home of Ohio State University, this market was chosen a decade ago to be a test for the new Samuel Adams Light beer. To kick off the new beer, Jim Koch came to Columbus, presented the new product to the sales team in the morning, spent the rest of the day in the retail trade, including hosting a beer tasting lunch at a key retail account, and participated in the usual media interviews. The commitment in terms of marketing dollars spent was impressive and of course, resulted in a successful launch.
Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Boston Beers, which is now the largest American owned craft brewery in the US. It’s seems like only yesterday when Jim Koch made the comment in his address at the NBWA that “AB spills more beer in a day then I sell in a year!” This is ironic in that Boston Beers is still owned by Jim, and AB was sold! Much has been written about Jim’s challenges during the start-up of Boston Brewing, including the quest for wholesalers to represent the brand and the extent to which he founded the craft market.
One strategy Boston used in the early days, was to target airport lounges and key upscale hotel bars. In essence the marketing strategy was to fit the demographics to the brand. The idea being that those traveling for business were in a captive place. The consumer who wanted to catch a quick beer at the airport had little choice, knowing that the beer selection was limited, and there really were no other bars in the immediate vicinity. By placing Sam Adams in airport bars, along with AB products, the consumer was given a real choice in their beer menu. Sam Adams experienced great exposure to the business traveler who had been held captive in airports and hotel settings. Now one can find Sam Adams Bars in a number of airports, serving many of their flavors.
In discussions with many of my distributors, especially in larger or metro markets, the number one feedback from distributors in regards to brand growth was always the same: “You need to be more like Boston Beers, they have X amount of people in my market!” This was problematic for almost all the suppliers as I had 260 wholesalers selling Warsteiner, and while I wished I could have a field staff that large, it was about as reasonable as a distributor having one salesmen per account. I credit Boston Beers for developing the feet on the street concept to really get Sam Adams selling and the focus it needed to get started. Now, however, this is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when discussing plans with distributors..
Much has been written about Jim Koch and Sam Adams, and much more will be written about their success. Jim and I have some things in common, we both spent our careers in beer and we both share the same birthday, May 27th. But now, Jim spills more beer in one day than I sell in a year! Happy Birthday, Jim!