16 Aug 2012

Unnecessary scandal


The Spanish beer community went up in arms the other day when it was announced that not one, but two beer tastings had been banned by DAMM, the Catalonian macro. One of them had been organised by a bar, the other by a shop specialised in Belgian beers, and both should have taken place as part of an event called Festa Major de Gràcia, of which the brewer is a sponsor.

The shitstorm that this unleashed towards DAMM shouldn't surprise anyone; however, what the company did was to demand the fulfillment of a sponsorship contract (which shouldn't surprise anyone, either). This contract had been signed with the organisers, who got some money and in exchange for it they agreed to give DAMM exclusive rights to sell beer during the event. Some might not like it, but exclusivity rights in exchange for sponsorship is nothing new and, in general terms (and some Olympic abuses notwithstanding), I don't see anything wrong with it, in fact, I believe is a good thing, both sides benefit from the agreement.

The beer wrath, then, should be addressed a bit more towards the organisers of Festa de Gràcia, not so much because they took DAMM's money and accepted their conditions (after all, this isn't a beer or even a food festival), but for having accepted or even suggested that this tastings take place. They knew the contract, the signed it voluntarily, nobody put a gun on their heads, so now they can't play the victims or claim that their hands were tied. At the same time, DAMM (or anyone, for that matter) can't be blasted for exercising their legal rights.

That said, DAMM are a bunch of twats, or at least there are some people in the company who are. All this is one bored journalist away from becoming the kind of irrelevant scandal the internet loves, a giant apparently abusing their position to crush small entrepreneurs.

This reminds me of the PR blunders Plzeňský Prazdroj was having not long ago. Two examples, the penalties they levied against a couple of pub owners who had decided to unilaterally terminate their contracts with the brewer, or the criminal charges they pressed against Kout na Šumavě a couple of years ago. In both cases, the law was on Prazdroj's side, but they still ended up looking like massive cunts in front of the public opinion (besides giving Kout some free publicity). It is exactly the same with DAMM, they fail to realise that the risks are higher than the potential benefits. Nobody goes to a popular celebration like the Festes to taste "artisan", Belgian or whatever beers, they go to have fun in the best way they know and can afford. Moreover, the brewer knows better than anyone that microbrews, by no means, are competition for the macros, and much less so in Spain.

This is nothing but a sign of the times. Prazdroj and DAMM aren't the only ones who have done something this stupid (or worse). This is the kind of attitude that suggests a bit of panic when facing the stagnation, if not downright fall, in sales, by the cracks in their model of continuous expansion that has worked so well in the past decades (if Pivovary.info's figures for 2008 are correct, between that year and the end of last, Prazdroj's output fell by more than 3 million hl!). On the other hand, this attitudes are a result of having lost touch with reality. These companies make their decisions solely based on market research, forecast, statistics and economic indicators. They might know very well what the masses want to drink, but they've got no fucking clue about what people think anymore.

Na Zdraví!

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