New Avenues for Youth’s ambassador board conceived of a pretty fresh event idea: host the first live auction of rare beers to ever take place in Portland (as part of a larger brew-centric event) and have all the proceeds benefit our programs. Initially, I struggled with the notion of funding programs for homeless and at-risk youth via explicitly booze oriented phenomena. After all, a lot of kids living on the street deal with the overwhelming daily struggles they experience in, well, the same self-destructive ways that people who live in houses deal with their problems. And alcoholism is up there on the list. But, eventually, I came to embrace the idea. Portland is, among a handful of other not-as-unique-as-it’s-chalked-up-to-be phenomena, a beer haven. And if half a thousand people dig the idea of bidding on (ridiculously) rare beers and rinsing the experience down with a couple local sours and stouts, then let’s do it, and let’s fund some expensive, vital social service programs at the same time.
Anyways, having overcome my moral speed bump, I had a lot of fun branding the event. The marketing needed to be hip but accessible, beer-centric without being beer geeky, and it needed to somehow appeal to both a VIP crowd (collectors) and general admission folks (drinkers). My organization (and nearly every other nonprofit I can think of) has always promoted events via e-blasts and postcards. Pretty straight forward, hard-to-screw-up stuff. But a unique event like this had so many opportunities for marketing strategies that were a little more creative. I quickly pitched the idea of promoting our event to the public by creating promotional coasters and placing them at every participating brewery or retailer. Well, that and Facebook ads. But the coasters were a clear highlight. I’ve still got a stack of them in my apartment, I love ’em so much.