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Diageo debacle provided great media potential, says BrewDog PR

By Luke Nicholls , 10-May-2012
Last updated on 10-May-2012 at 16:53 GMT

A major row between Scottish-based independent brewer BrewDog and global drinks giant Diageo provided ‘great media potential’ for the pub group, with its Twitter followers able to escalate the issue into a global trend overnight.

That’s the view of Alex Myers, director of Manifest London – BrewDog’s PR company. Myers appeared on the Monocle 24 radio station this afternoon, reflecting on the use of social media to fuel a debate and promote a business.

“The story itself wouldn’t have been as big if it wasn’t for the backlash on Twitter,” said Myers. “It’s actually the community of fans of BrewDog that were able to escalate this story from being a small NIB, which wouldn’t have forced an apology from Diageo, to being a global trend.

“The question for us was about right and wrong, rather than just a PR opportunity. There was an opportunity here to expose a wrongdoing and we wanted to make the most of that. And from a press perspective, there was a great media potential.”

What did Diageo do?

At the BII Scotland Annual Awards Dinner held on Sunday night, a representative from Diageo was allegedly overheard threatening to withdraw the brand’s sponsorship from future ceremonies if BrewDog was declared the winner of the Bar Operator of the Year award.

The award had already been engraved with BrewDog’s name, prompting surprise and confusion throughout the Grand Central Hotel when Behind the Wall in Falkirk was instead declared the winner.

BrewDog, which operates seven pubs across the UK including a venue in Camden, North London, took to its website yesterday to publish a blog post slamming the behaviours of big corporations and vowing to steer clear of Diageo, whose brands include Guiness, Smirnoff and Moet.

Within minutes, BrewDog’s Twitter followers mounted the campaign against the drinks brand under the hash tag #AndTheWinnerIsNot . Diageo soon became a global trend on the social networking website.

“With Twitter, you’ve not only got customers, you’ve got advocates,” added Myers. “So if you wrong BrewDog, you wrong all of the followers at the same time. David and Goliath is a good way to describe it.”

Diageo’s apology

The drinks brand issued its apology just hours after the blog post. A Diageo spokesperson said: "There was a serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening in relation to the Bar Operator of the Year award, which does not reflect in any way Diageo's corporate values and behaviour.

"We would like to apologise unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgement and we will be contacting both organisations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident."

Myers concluded: “The extent of Diageo’s apology proves just how big a mistake they made. It’s quite rare for an organisation of that size to come out and apologise, in their words, unreservedly to Brewdog for what seemed like quite a basic mistake to make really.”

BrewDog’s past controversies

This is not the first occasion BrewDog has been involved in controversy. The company, which made a profit of £425,000 last year, had an spat with the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) over what it calls the ‘modernisation of ale.’

It has also drawn condemnation from health campaigners by producing ‘Sink the Bismark’ which at 41pc is labelled ‘the world’s strongest beer’, and riled animal rights activists when it packaged it’s the End of History ale in dead stoats, squirrels and hares.  

Diageo and BII Scotland were not available for any further comments on the award.

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