Guinness parent company commits harebrained PR blunder

Basically, it screwed a microbrewer in Scotland and, ultimately, apologized for it. This one is a head-slapper.


Your reaction by the time you reach the end of this story: What were they thinking?

Here’s the play-by-play (via the BrewDog blog):

Diageo, one of the world’s largest beverage companies and maker of Guinness stout, Captain Morgan rum, and several other popular and well-known liquor brands, sponsored an awards event for retailers in Scotland on May 6.

BrewDog, a small microbrewery in Scotland, learned in advance of the awards ceremony that it had won the flagship award, “Bar Operator of the Year,” for its innovative beer marketing and use of social media.

Now to the event: The winner of the “Bar Operator of the Year” award goes to … Diageo?

Yes, Diageo—the sponsor of the event—was announced as the winner. Representatives from the company refused to accept the honor because BrewDog’s name was already etched on the trophy.

So, what happened?

When Diageo learned BrewDog had won the award, it told the event coordinators that if they gave the small brewer the honor, it would pull its sponsorship from the event.

The coordinators caved to the demands.

The matter blew up in Diageo’s face, as blogs in the U.K. picked up the story and vitriol toward the large company spewed forth on Twitter. Ultimately, Diageo acknowledged the error and issued this apology:

“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 any way 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 and we will be contacting both organizations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident.”

BrewDog’s reaction to the apology (and everything else)? This image from its blog seems to sum it up:

The small brewer also had this to say:

“Once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows [Diageo] to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks. No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.”

The commenters to the BrewDog blog (and from a host of others on social media) seem to agree with that statement.

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