Diageo's Craft Beer Black Eye: Brewdog Claims Blackmail

While the battle between small craft brewers and larger corporations here in the United States has been well documented, the battle is apparently equally as fierce overseas.


Take, for example, a recent awards ceremony thrown by the British Institute of Innkeeping, a trade group which represents pubs and restaurants. This year the event was sponsored by Diageo , the world’s largest distiller, maker of Johnnie Walker whiskey and Smirnoff vodka, and Guinness Lager among other items.

At the event, the award for "Bar Operator of the Year" was set to go to Scotland'sBrewdog, according the craft brewer's website. But Brewdog was snubbed when Diageo allegedly told event organizers that future sponsorship would be pulled if Brewdog won the award.

So Brewdog, despite their name allegedly already being engraved on the trophy, was left empty handed.

This set off a viral media firestorm with the hashtag #andthewinnerisnottrending on Twitter for a short time worldwide. Consumers from across the globe tweeted they would boycott Diageo products.

The incident caused Diageo to issue the following statement:

"There was a serious misjudgment 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 anyway Diageo's corporate values and behavior. We would like to apologize unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgment."

James Watt, co-founder at BrewDog, told the Scotsman.com:

“Diageo’s actions are shameless, misguided and embarrassing. This is clear evidence of the dirty tricks used by global corporations to derail young competitors they fear. We are often criticized for suggesting big businesses do not play fair in this industry, yet this is another clear indication that some organizations feel they are big enough to be kingmakers, controllers of everyone else’s fate. As a sponsor, Diageo had no right to interfere with the independent judging process, but they abused their position to make a small and stupid statement like this one.”

The incident is a marketing coup for Brewdog, which is well known as much for its beer as its outlandish marketing, which includes releasing a Viagra-laced beerin honor of last year’s Royal Wedding.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.