Belladrum, Connect, Transmit, ButeFest, Piping Live! and of course the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival – its’ great to see festivals back and the good news is that hospitality benefits all round. And that’s before we count in all the whisky and gin festivals taking place around the country including the Spirit of Speyside and this year we saw the Falkirk Gin Festival.
The added support that comes from drinks brands around such events really do add value for audiences and the on-trade alike. Sponsors and brands participating contribute to delivering ‘The Perfect Stage’, a key tenant of how Scotland promotes itself. The work that goes into creating the perfect stage is of course as much to do with the brands that take part and many come up with unique, witty and engaging ways to entertain – as well as delivering the much needed funding that helps these events to take place in the first place.
You only have to walk around Edinburgh at the moment to see the brand activations that have taken place. It is not just about the branding I recall, quite a few years ago now, sponsoring the tent on Princes Street for a new brand aunch during the Edinburgh Festival – we also did 48-sheets, bus shelters and digital advertising). Did the sponsorship work? Yes.
But the value of meeting and seeing our audience was invaluable in terms of really understanding our positioning and what we were missing. Being able to watch customers experience our brand was insight that no data could provide. And of course, we able to leverage the sponsorship to sell advertising around our online offering too. It was a chunky part of our marketing budget that year and the powers-that-be must have wondered why we picked the Edinburgh Festival rather than, say, a larger music festival.
Even this doesn’t capture the draw, with many people not attending events but travelling to Edinburgh to enjoy the shows in the streets, bars and restaurants. It is estimated that up to 4m people visit Edinburgh during the festival. That is a staggering targeting opportunity for brands in the drinks sector and it’s right on our doorstep.
Although official figures suggest that the Edinburgh Fringe brings an economic impact of well over £200m other sources have estimated that the direct and indirect impact benefits the city by more than £1 billion according to The Centre for Economics and Business Research. The importance of the festival to the local economy was certainly put into focus by the pandemic when it was cancelled and the impact on hospitality was horrendous. But the mood in town is optimistic.
Says Innes Bolt, MD of Montpeliers, “Its brilliant to have the full festival back in town! Good for business and great for the city! A few more independant venues run by a ‘collection’ of local operators (along with no road works ) would make it perfect!”
While Anne Still of Omni Taverns who own Whiski, Whiski Room and Copper Still, “The festival is very important to Edinburgh and is the busiest month of the year for us. We love the vibe in the city, it’s teaming with life and activity and we’ve missed it so much.”
Johnnie Walker and Edinburgh Gin are headline sponsors of The Fringe. But the sponsorship opportunities spread across events and venues. One of the largest is Underbelly, the live entertainment company, which produced or co-produced 23 shows in 2019, investing over £500,000 to support artists to develop existing and new work.
Their events and festivals division runs one of the biggest operations at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year Naked Malt is an official sponsor of Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe 2022. The Naked Malt Garden will feature at the Reid Quad area in Bristo Square is open until 29th of August – with a large bar & Instagrammable space, to inspire Edinburgh Fringe visitors to #LiveNaked!
The bar area has its own enclosed space next to McEwan Hall, which is Underbelly’s largest performance venue with 1000 seats. The Naked Malt Garden features a fully branded bar space, with x3 Naked Sours on menu, with x2 of the serves being designed by two of Edinburgh’s top bars: Hey Palu & Superico. Molson Coors is also prominent at the festival.
Molson Coors Three Fold is everywhere this summer and they have just launched in draught at Eastside and Candy Bar (Montpeliers) in Edinburgh. Brendan Napier, Sales & Operations Director of Molson Coors told us, “We’re delighted to see the return of in person events, allowing consumers to get back to enjoying all that Scotland has to offer. “In Edinburgh we’ll be refreshing audiences with Madri, Blue Moon, Staropramen, Three Fold Hard Seltzer and Rekorderlig at Underbelly, Pleasance Courtyard and Gilded Balloon Teviot.
“In Glasgow, our lighter tasting Pilsner, Pravha, is at junction1 for their series of summer events. And we’re delighted to be returning to the beautiful Belldarum with Carling & Carling Cider.”
And brands are getting creative to find opportunities and showcase their offerings with tastings, in-bar promotions all fitting into the mix. At The Fringe Disaronno are running a “Tia Maria Two of a Tini” bar at George Square, showcasing their Tia Maria Matcha cocktails and different variations of Espresso Martini’s.
There is also a one-seater bar that takes over the ‘wee’ police box on Princes Street. The one-of-a-kind, oneseater drinking hole is being introduced by Scotch Whisky independent bottler Cask 88 just outside the Johnnie Walker whisky experience and it will be serving drinks throughout the Fringe. It’s a one in, one out experience!
There is even a show about drink tasting. Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland , the pioneers of alcohol-based comedy, will be performing the newest version of their “Thinking Drinkers Pub Quiz” – a show that gives every audience member five complimentary alcoholic drinks.
As theatre-goers compete head-to-head, with a quiz sheet and pencil in one hand – and a selection of drinks in the other – the award-winning alcohol experts and drinks historians are embarking on an exploration of alcohol’s influence on every aspect of humanity.
Armed with their “Drink Less, Drink Better” mantra, Sandham and McFarland shall be filling audiences’ glasses with Brockmans gin, Krombacher, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Johnnie Walker and Elijah Craig from the USA.
The colour of Edinburgh is also enhanced by the numerous outside areas which are branded by well known, and lesser known brands. From the Whispering Angel area at Tiger lily – one of the prettiest in the city to Smuggler Spirits at the Festival Village