Crafty Cameos: Beer Brands Make Appearances in Film and Television

Feature by | Jul 2014 | Issue #90

From public radio sponsorships to placements in major motion pictures, your favorite craft beer brands have been showing up in a lot of unexpected places lately. Take, for example, the 2013 romantic comedy Drinking Buddies, which was set inside (and was filmed entirely at) Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Or the special iteration of New York’s storytelling series The Moth, sponsored by New Belgium Brewing and held at their Tour de Fat festival. Even an episode of NPR’s This American Life—after one particularly intense story about the Boston Bombers—had host Ira Glass thanking a somewhat unusual sponsor: Petaluma, Calif.’s Lagunitas Brewing.

It might be hard to believe with all the national exposure involved, but the majority of these (and other) recent craft beer placements were not paid for with big-time marketing budgets or exclusive deals with movie studios. Instead, breweries are increasingly finding their name and products in the public eye through more hardscrabble means, including bartering and/or small payments viewed as an extension of the company’s community support.

“In our business, were not looking for Super Bowl ads or anything, but we’re always thinking about where our brand is carried,” says Tony Yanow, who co-owns Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles’ largest brewery. With only a few thousand dollars to spend on marketing each quarter, Golden Road trades comparable amounts of event space and beer for its regional radio ads, as it recently did for the launch of its new year-round beer, 329 Lager. “For the most part, what we try to do is associate ourselves with other brands that we’re fans of or that we feel our drinkers would gravitate towards.”

90Feature_Cameos2And when it comes to product placements in film and television, craft breweries are even less complicit in the decision to include their bottles or logo, like when a Golden Road delivery truck was featured in an episode of Comedy Central’s Workaholics after co-founder Meg Gill met actor Anders Holm at the pool. Or when bottles of Utah’s Uinta Brewing were spotted on the table during an episode of HBO’s Vice because that’s what the interviewees chose to drink.

So sure, New Belgium doled out an impressive $1.4 million on measured media (such as internet, television, radio and billboards) in 2013, but in typical craft-beer fashion, the shift to seeing a bottle of Lagunitas Pils in a John Mayer music video or Woody Allen movie (both of which have recently happened) is as organic a move as the industry’s growth itself.

“I wonder if our customers do think that we pay for it,” Lagunitas’ director of marketing Ron Lindenbusch says. “But usually it’s just an edgy enough or a discreet enough placement that it’s obvious somebody on the production side just likes our beer.”