How not to do corporate sponsorship


Did you see the amazing spat between independent brewers BrewDog and drinks megacorp Diageo this week? It’s been a real David and Goliath affair.

First off BrewDog won a big drinks industry award, then when they got to the glitzy awards ceremony they found out the gong was being given to someone else. Why? Because Diageo, the awards sponsor, had bullied the organisers into not giving it to BrewDog. They had insisted it be given to someone else, who in turn publicly refused the gong because it had BrewDog’s name engraved on it. Ha.

And boy did Brewdog make PR mincemeat of Diageo. Using the hashtag #AndTheWinnerIsNot, Brewdog fans took to Twitter and made sure the story quickly exploded, forcing Diageo into a grovelling mainstream media apology amid mutterings about “a serious misjudgement” by staff at the awards dinner. BrewDog couldn’t have asked for more positive publicity.

Whilst this is all very titillating to us mavericks working outside of the corporates there is a bigger trend going on here that effects smaller mainstream businesses. The big guys are scared of you.

When a company as large as Diageo resort to dirty tricks you know they’re worried at just how much the beer market is changing. And it’s not just happening there. Take the previously untouchable Media industry. As I write News International’s former chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been charged over allegations she attempted to cover up illegal phone-hacking activities and corrupt payments to public officials. The ongoing News of the World scandal threatens to topple the whole news and broadcast lansdcape of the nation. And beyond.

What’s led these amazing changes? In a word. Digital. Very rarely do we see the introduction of a brand new media coming on the back of a worldwide recession. Look how TV changed our lives after the second world war. Digital has given us the power to be fast, agile, provocative, caustic. There’s nowhere to hide. In today’s restart economy this means smaller operators can really challenge their traditional market leaders.

Not only can we now highlight the inadequacies of the giants, but quick thinking entrepreneurial minds can easily outwit the corporate marketing managers, and clever use of social media means we can now engage directly with people on an unprecedented scale.

Whether we’re trying to win business, expose corruption, smash dictators or sell things to new friends, the big guys know the games up. The future belongs to Us.

Justin Williams

Justin is the Creative Director of D4. He is an internationally experienced designer specialising in the development of brands into digital. Justin thinks everything is interesting.

  • Bill romania
    Posted at 01:49h, 23 May Reply

    Be careful what you wish for. If the micros get too good or too profitable, the giants will just buy them. Then a whole other generation of micros will have to start up, grow and get bought. Until the entire distribution system changes, the big will buy the creative small. Just look at the movie industry: even the independants need a major studio for distribution

  • Justin Williams
    Posted at 09:06h, 23 May Reply

    Yeah I hear you Bill, but I’d argue that the rise of Digital as a media combined with the worldwide recession means new and different things could happen in the near future. I went to a talk by Neville Brody last week and he said he couldn’t believe how lucky he felt just to be living in these times.

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