What does an urban radio station and the oldest brewery in Minnesota have in common? A lot, apparently. When I first heard this past winter that Schell’s brewery in New Ulm was going to release a Zommerfest Kolsch style ale that was co-branded with Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 FM/The Current, I was not surprised. In fact, the only surprise was that hip, urban Current chose Schell’s over a newer, scenester upstart like, Indeed, 612Brew, Dangerous Man, Harriet Brewing, Fulton, or the grand-daddy of cool craft beers, Surly. Even Summit or Finnigan’s made more sense to me as a local partner.
Co-branding with media is not new for a beer company. In fact, there’s a history of radio stations partnering with breweries going back to the 70’s. It has not been done, to my knowledge, with a Twin Cities radio station. In that regard, it is something new to this area. The fact that The Current is a public radio station and that profits from beer sales will go back to the station is also something new.
When thinking about this unique partnership between Schell’s and The Current, it begins to make more sense. Schell’s is the largest brewery in Minnesota by volume, and would have the brewing/canning capacity to brew a special label. Perhaps it would be much more difficult for a recent upstart brewery to be able to guarantee the kind of volume that The Current would need, let alone the distribution network.
Suddenly it dawned on me just how much of a win/win this is for both parties. The Current has greatly expanded its signal to cover most of the state. Schell’s distribution is state-wide. Shell’s receives a tremendous amount of airtime devoted to the launch of the beer; four release parties, a special CD, and numerous other on-air mentions. This is equivalent to a major state-wide ad campaign worth tens of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, Schell’s has an image problem of being the kind of beer your dad drinks, very old school. A 156 year old brewery partners with a young, sexy radio station (The Current is 9 years old…but that sounds kind of creepy in this context). Instant cred is scored by Schell’s to reach those 20 – 40 year-old demos. Schell’s leap-frogs the local craft breweries to expand share in its biggest market, the Twin Cities. They can now compete head-to-head (no pun intended) with a can of Surly.
The Current latches onto a product their demos love – beer. The beer is branded with a very cool design, and spread it throughout the state. Every liquor store in Minnesota carries a little Current billboard in the beer cooler – brilliant! They now have a branded product to match their signal in places like Mankato, Grand Rapids, Austin and Brainerd.
Yes, I have not forgotten the social media part. MPR, and The Current specifically, are masters at social media. MPR has the resources and staffing for a very robust social media presence is all relevant formats. Schell’s is going to score big riding on those coattails. Schell’s is not going to be earning a profit from this partnership, but will earn a much more valuable reward in product promotion to a new target audience. Let’s compare social media notes:
- Facebook 70,000 Likes, multiple posts daily
- Twitter 50,000 Followers, 256,000 Tweets, dozens of tweets daily
- Google +, Instagram, Tumblr, You Tube, numerous blogs
- Facebook 20,000 Likes, 4-5 posts weekly, Joined fb in 2009
- Twitter 7500 Followers, 1579 Tweets, daily tweets, Only joined Twitter in November of 2012
- Instagram 1700 Followers, 388 posts
The Current beer was released in May, let’s follow the number of Likes and Followers that Schell’s has over the next few months. I think that they will be scoring big!