Case study: How BrewDog’s PR strategy for Equity for Punks engaged ‘fanvestors’ in the craft beer revolution

This case study outlines the PR strategy behind 'Equity for Punks', the IPO scheme of craft beer brand BrewDog. The strategy, created and delivered by Manifest, resulted in over £2m of fan investment in the brand, as well as realising the full media potential of the craft beer revolution.

Equity for Punks came at a time when BrewDog was growing from strength to strength. It was available to buy in 25 different countries and in all major UK supermarkets. This meant it couldn’t meet demand because of the size of its original brewery. Based on the success of Equity for Punks 1, which raised £175,000, BrewDog knew it needed a fresh approach to Equity for Punks II to ensure it could afford to build a brand new ecobrewery which cost £1m.PR played the primary role in the success of the campaign, integrating seamlessly with social media activity to establish the craft beer revolution in the UK, before inspiring people to invest. The Equity for Punks scheme had no above-the-line spend, with marketing purely through PR and social media. 90,000 shares were made available totalling approximately £2.2m. To launch the campaign, Manifest organised a photo shoot outside the Bank of England, featuring BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie and a posse of punks recruited from the burgeoning brand communities on Facebook and Twitter. Storming The City, the punks were photographed ripping up pages of the Financial Times and selling shares to passers by. The images were used to support all press material hosted on the Digital Newsroom, alongside a dedicated video blog and were used widely in press articles.Manifest utilised existing social channels (Facebook and Vimeo) and set up a Twitter profile to support the activity and promote the Equity for Punks scheme online before the offline media sell to demonstrate through online buzz that the story reflected the zeitgeist and place BrewDog within the wider narrative of changing attitudes toward banks and personal finances.Manifest engaged in a bold media relations strategy to target press with the unique investment scheme. Utilising its own Digital Newsroom platform, Manifest shared press information, video and the hi-res images from the photoshoot, as well as setting up a briefing day with key publications within the media.The main objective was to publicise the Equity for Punks scheme to BrewDog fans and the bigger audience of potential investors in an aim of raising over £1m of capital investment (a maximum of £2.2m) in Europe’s first online IPO. This was a story of change – relevant to anyone through a variety of narratives adjusted according to specific media targets. Manifest’s strategy not only did this through unlocking the media potential of the craft beer revolution, changing the face of finance through the ‘fanvestor’ and tapping into the swelling trend to seek alternatives to banks and financial institutions. It also looked to incite action through communications with all coverage focused on inciting individuals to invest.After storming the Bank of England with an army of crowd-sourced punks, the images were used to draw the attention of staid and formulaic City desks, grab the attention of consumer affairs desks and establish the events as newsworthy enough to generate coverage. Manifest utilised social media profiles to drive personal recommendations that supported media messages of support and circulate offline media advocates, whilst inviting a steady stream of user generated content that established BrewDog equity as inherently desirable and cool. Manifest ran online competitions such as BrewDog’s Got Talent to win shares, whilst on Christmas Day, BrewDog broadcasted its ‘alternative Queen’s Speech’, including reasons to invest and plotting the future of the craft beer revolution. BrewDog shares were even included in Christmas gift guides – definitely a first – across a myriad of consumer titles. Manifest launched a media relations strategy to target the press with the unique nature of this investment scheme – adjusting the story over the duration of the campaign to gain coverage in national news media. In December, BrewDog opened its first bar in England. BrewDog Camden was pitched as the ‘arrival of the craft beer revolution in London’ and Manifest hired a tank to roll the founders into the city, offering crowds in Camden the unique opportunity of buying shares over the bar while ordering a pint .Within just two days ‘fanvestors’ had spent £500,000 on shares and after three weeks the initial six-month target of £1m had been raised. In under six months, the scheme was fully subscribed and had reached its total potential of £2.2m. Top tier coverage was achieved in The Times, The FT, Sunday Express, The Herald, The Scotsman, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Metro, The Daily Mail, Shortlist, Nuts, FHM, The Evening Standard and other nationals, regionals and key trade publications, smashing the target set by BrewDog and resulting in huge ROI. On TV, BrewDog was featured on Channel 4 news as well as ratings topper ‘Alan Carr Chatty Man’ reaching peak audiences. This case study won the award for both PR Strategy of the Year and Grand Prix at The Drum Marketing Awards in 2012.

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