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Home » Will Collaboration Drive Traffic to your Tasting Room?

Will Collaboration Drive Traffic to your Tasting Room?

  • 9 min read

Fireworks photo for collaborations postHope you had a great (and profitable) Fourth of July Holiday! Here in Golden, Colorado, we crushed a 9-mile hike in the morning and watched a number of neighborhood fireworks displays from a spot on the corner of South Table Mountain. It was a nice little locals’ hack to avoiding the crowds downtown. Plus, we were looking DOWN on the displays which was wild!

On the subject of hacks, our friends at SKA Brewing in Durango recently did a collaboration with Gravity Haus, a mountain hotel group for adventure-seekers. Why is it a hack? When two like-minded brands work together to produce a new product or service, both tap into new customers and usage occasions, creating sales and traffic. While Cabin Juice Après Pale Ale is a great example, it’s a tactic far more craft beverage producers should leverage! So, we went down the rabbit hole to come up with a collaboration playbook with steps for successful promotion. Let’s get started!

types of collaborations

SKA Brewing and Gravity Haus menu photo for collaborations postWhen you think “collaboration,” do you immediately think of popular craft beverage producers with which you’d enjoy partnering? Peers and friends in the area who could help draw attention to your geography? That’s certainly one approach to collaboration, resulting in seasonal, event-specific, anniversary, charitable and other themed beverages available for sale for a limited time. Teams may decide to work together at one location; separately on the same recipe; or some blend of the two. Arrangements are made to share profits or make a charitable donation. While the logistics can make things challenging, a fun time is [generally] had by all, making it a popular choice among producers. But have you looked outside the industry? SKA Brewing partnered with a hotel on their collaboration beer. What other out-of-the box collaborations can you come up with to promote your business in a meaningful, relevant way? Take a look at the list below for thought-starters:

  • Community groups
  • Pet kennels/Humane Society
  • Adjacent or related businesses
  • Sporting venues
  • Landmarks and parks
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Police and Fire
  • Enthusiast groups, hobbyists
  • Clothing or sporting brands
  • Theaters, productions
  • Music venues
  • Outdoor and adventure organizers
  • Conferences
  • Charitable organizations, causes

It’s important to note that businesses catering to those under the drinking age are not typically tapped for collaborations. You never want to be seen as promoting your [alcoholic] product to children. There’s always a grey area: for instance, a charitable group raising money for childhood cancers. Best to follow the TTB Guidelines for Alcohol Beverage Advertising, specifically when it comes to the age and composition of your target audience.

partner due diligence

Winemaker pouring a basket of grapes photo for collaboration postOnce you have an idea of your theme, it’s time to do some research on the best partner for your collaboration. Do they need to know how to make craft beverages? Not necessarily. But they do need to share some relevance to your business, whether that’s being part of the same community, appealing to a similar customer base, being mission- or purpose-driven or something else. The reason for this is simple: partners won’t drive new sales or traffic if they can’t easily explain the relationship. We’ve come up with 5 questions you should ask of your prospects before entering into a collaboration:

  1. How is my brand similar to theirs? How is it different?
  2. What do they stand for? Are we in alignment?
  3. Will my customers be surprised and delighted by the partnership?
  4. What is the sales/profit upside to the relationship?
  5. Is this a one-off, seasonal or longer opportunity?

Collaborations are supposed to be fun, so it pays to make sure your prospects are a good fit. To that end, you’ll also want to reduce or eliminate the potential for relationship drama upfront. Do a thorough Google search to make sure there are no skeletons in the closet, including bad publicity, employee angst, lawsuits or similar track record. While you may not have eyes on their financial records, look for areas of growth like new locations or expansion, as well as challenges like closures and layoffs. An audit of their offerings could reveal controversial product names or services that are misaligned with your own. And scrolling through social posts will serve as a general barometer of brand health and surface any haters or troubling stories.

decide on a name

With a theme and a partner in mind, it’s a lot easier to channel your creativity when naming your beverage. We like to look at naming as an intersection of the two collaborating partners. Grab a blank sheet of paper and start with what you have in common, like geography, audience, personality, cause, etc. Then look at the same list but from the perspective of what’s different. Highlight strengths as well as weaknesses and start to identify trends and storylines. We tried to back-out the naming exercise for SKA Brewing’s collaboration with Gravity Haus to illustrate our point, see below:

SKA Brewing and Gravity Haus naming exercise for collaboration post

The similarities are obvious: mountains, outdoors, adventurous and fun. The differences are a little more subtle: geography, target customer and brand personality. Gravity Haus is slightly more exclusive while SKA is more approachable. SKA’s home is in a Southern Colorado mountain town, so they may want to borrow some of Gravity Haus’ brand awareness in Summit County in return for some playfulness and fun. “Cabin Juice” is a restaurant and bar at their Breckenridge hotel (presumably the SKA collaboration is featured across their five Colorado locations). “Après” is a celebratory term used after a day on the hill, whatever sport you enjoy. And SKA’s Pale Ale is an easy-drinker: not too hoppy with a clean, crisp finish.

We could be way off with our deconstruction of the name 😉 But you can see how the right name for your collaboration checks a lot of boxes:

  • Pay respect to the two partners
  • Leverage strengths and shore-up weaknesses
  • Share relevance not possible individually

Once you have a name in mind, remember to do the necessary trademark searches to make sure it’s not already in use. The last thing you want to do is market a product with any intellectual property baggage! 


Tasting room photo for collaboration postNow the fun begins! Your Marketing team, designer or agency has the green light to design the look-and-feel for any packaging or [sub]branding to give this collaboration beverage a personality of its own. The same care will be taken to respect each brand individually and together, finding a similar intersection visually as we did with naming. The copy used to describe the collaboration will quickly explain the how’s and why’s to new customers, eliminating any confusion. And you’ll leverage the selling channels available to you based on the nature of the relationship (a partnership with a Bar/Restaurant will necessarily be different from one with a community or charitable group, for instance). Remember licensing and event permits when selling or sampling your collaboration!

Depending on the partnership, you may have the ability to promote the beverage using all the normal channels: digital, social, public relations, tasting room, etc. Set aside marketing budget, if possible, to cast a wider net for your effort. Work closely with your partner to share assets and strategies for greater promotional impact. One of the greatest benefits to any collaboration is building brand awareness and relevance with a new audience. If they enjoyed the liquid, they’ll be sure to consider your brand at retail or on-site.

rinse and repeat

Handshake photo for collaboration postThe first collaboration with any partner will quickly reveal how long a runway the beverage has. Starting with your internal metrics as a baseline, establish clear Sales and Marketing goals for the effort. Do a gut-check partway through promotion to ensure it’s still benefiting both partners. Share performance measures between organizations to stay on-track with expectations, or regroup in order to tweak the plan. Some collaborations between craft beverage producers have gone on for decades, in more or less the same form as when they started. Others have evolved to include new partners, adjacent industries and other novelties to keep the audience’s attention. If it’s working for you, best to continue fanning the fire until it no longer makes sense to continue. At which point it’s time to shelve the effort and call it good.

pulling the plug

Even the best collaborations between two well-matched partners can come to an end. Sometimes it’s out of the partners’ control, like increased market competition. Perhaps one of the partners is at fault: bankruptcy or bad publicity for example. Maybe the style of beverage didn’t land with your audience, or a trend quickly fell out of favor. Whatever the case, there are ways to gracefully exit the partnership without creating a stir within the industry. First up, make sure your employees have a clear idea of what’s happening and why. Stop serving the liquid in your tasting room. Make sure the team in charge of social media has the training needed to respond in the brand-right way to drinkers. Next, draft a press release to send to journalists and media outlets to get ahead of any speculation. Inform any on- or off-premise Retailers of the product being discontinued as of a specific date (pull existing inventory only in rare situations). Settle any debts owed to the partners, charities or other stakeholders, then carry your experience forward to the next project.

These recommendations are not meant to fuel a contentious breakup. Quite the contrary: they are meant to leave the relationship amicably. The craft beverage industry is way too small to burn bridges unnecessarily, so best to leave the door open for future opportunities.

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