Getting The Best: Attracting Vendors to Your Craft Beer Event
By Tyler Turek
You can read the first post in this series here.
“Build it and they will come” is not a great mantra for any aspiring craft beer festival committee. Not only must a festival provide a fun & safe experience, organizers strive to attract top breweries, sell tickets, and promote the hell out of the event.
I was recently asked by an organizer how best to recruit amazing talent from far and wide. I break it down to two fundamentals: value and communication, in that order.
VALUE (costs + benefits)
Above all, vendors seek a valuable experience, one that will generate short- and long-term benefit to the brewery. This can come in many forms, including product sold, new markets reached, and potential fans converted to your brand. Small, local breweries may have different objectives than major craft producers.
Know what your target breweries are after and tailor your pitch specifically to their needs. While you want small, medium and large companies at your event, each wants to feel that your festival works for them.
Festivals will often charge a “vendor fee” to breweries for participation (small events may be free of charge). It ranges from $100 to $1000+ and covers licenses, security, rentals, promotion and other overhead costs. A hefty fee is not necessarily a turn-off, but the event will need to add value to the brewery. When evaluating an event, I ask myself:
- What’s included? If a table, tent, ice, electricity, meals and other costs are covered by a reasonable fee, I’m inclined to participate.
- Will I be reimbursed for samples poured? Typically, breweries receive a percentage of token sales to cover product costs. In the end, I hope to break even on product sales (or get close to it). If I’m asked to pay a fee AND supply my own beer without compensation, Ill likely decline.
- Who is attending? Will your guests be die-hard craft lovers, casual visitors, or students? Is it an outdoor (family) event or do you have a specific theme? I want to know who will me sampling my beer.
- Is this festival in an area I want to grow my brand? With limited staff and resources, most breweries cannot attend every festival. I love Thunder Bay and Windsor, but for some they are not target areas for distant breweries. Smaller communities and markets may compete with larger, more established festivals for vendors. Reach out to growing breweries you feel might want to develop a presence in your area.
- How much to staff and supply the event? Often brewery staff need to rent vehicles and hotels for events. I need to keep costs reasonable. How much I’m willing to invest depends on what I expect to get in return (see above).
Each brewery will answer these questions different based on the event and their own goals.
Now that you’ve considered the value offered to vendors, it’s time to communicate your passion!
Reach out early to your desired vendors. Show us how your event can help us. Be clear and precise with registration, costs, and deadlines. Do the math on fees and token reimbursements so that breweries don’t expect to lose too much if attendance is poor (due to weather, for instance).
If you’re an established festival, talk about past attendance numbers. Any media you can attach with your pitch can help. Are you new? Tell us how you’ll make your mark on the crowded beer festival circuit. You don’t have to be big if you’re unique.
In sum, festival organizers should create and communicate value for vendors and attendees alike. I’ve heard too many gripes from both groups about festival costs. With an ever-increasing number of events across Ontario, organizers should be aware that amateur hour is over.