Inaugural Craft Beer Marketing Awards Competition Underway

By: Jim McCune

  There are dozens of competitions that award any number of beers on their flavor. There are no competitions, however, which recognize the incredible design and marketing work that breweries do for the branding of beer.

  As Jim McCune, a longtime promoter of craft beer states: “I’ve been in the beer-marketing industry for 24 years, and attended nearly a hundred beer-tasting competitions, yet I’ve never seen anything celebrating the amazing work that designers, illustrators, branders, and marketers do for beer. In many cases, this work is being handled by the brewers themselves.”

  The concept for a nationwide marketing competition was “brewed up” in November 2018 on Long Island as the brainchild of McCune and Jackie DiBella who are, respectively, the Executive Director and Account Manager of EGC Group’s Craft Beverage Division in Melville, New York. They brought this concept to EGC CEO and Founder, Ernie Canadeo, who immediately loved the idea and agreed to help both develop and finance it.

  McCune and DiBella got right to work at building out the Craft Beer Marketing Awards (CBMAs) from scratch. They cracked open a beer and started sketching a logo. From there, they carved out the categories and rules. They started inviting judges from within the brewing and creative industries. All of this work needed to be formulated into a strategic plan, with a schedule for receiving entries, judging, awarding, and celebrating.

  Creating this new business got extremely difficult during the development of the interactive awards website. The site needed to accept calls-to-entry registrants, paid entries, but also have a sophisticated, encrypted, yet easy-to-use judges’ platform. The judging process for the CBMAs had to be robust, credible, and have transparent digital scoring.

  Everyone involved simultaneously acquired sponsors and partnerships as they developed and produced a very unique awards trophy – something they know would look cool on a winner’s desk.

  Canadeo, McCune, and DiBella gave it their all, and in less than a year had the CBMAs live and accepting entries on October 6, 2019.

  The Craft Beer Marketing Awards became the first-ever in the USA, having been developed to recognize and award the very best marketing in the brewing industry across the nation. Breweries, their agencies, designers, and marketing partners were invited to enter their top work.

  The CBMAs were excited to get immediate coverage about the marketing competition from publications that included Forbes, New School Beer, Beverage-Master Magazine, Brewpublic, Media Post, Craft Beer Austin, Beer Connoisseur, Brewbound, Pro Brewer – and Forbes again. See all media here.

  Design and marketing of each beer has become critical to a brewery’s popularity and success. With nearly 8,000 breweries across the country, and all of them vying for the same eyeballs – it has become increasingly more difficult to stand out from the competition in this incredibly saturated marketplace.

  In the past, small breweries could rely solely on word of mouth about their beers, but the past decade has seen something of a renaissance in craft beer marketing and branding. Beer packaging and design quickly became much more sophisticated, similar to that of the wine industry, and for good reason.

  “More than ever, breweries recognize the need to prioritize their marketing strategies,” said Prabh Hans, VP Business Development & Strategy for Hillebrand, and CBMAs Presenting Sponsor. “We’ve worked closely with brewers since 1984, and know that shelves and cities are flooded with an overwhelming amount of craft beer options. The CBMAs’ team recognized how much time and money these breweries are now investing into branding efforts and created a one-of-a-kind opportunity to celebrate them.”

  While most craft beer consumers might seek out local brews or prefer a certain style, many of today’s beer shoppers between the ages of 22 and 37 (the millennial generation) are making their final purchase decision based on “cool looking labels” – and this is why beer branding, design, and packaging has become the most effective means of influencing a purchase at the decision-making moment.

  Approximately 80 percent of consumers make their final purchase decision at the retail shelf, while 64 percent of this group admitted they would change their mind if “something better” caught their eye at that moment.

  But who do brewers owe credit to when it comes to these eye-catching, decision-driving can designs?

  Beer brand identities give breweries the opportunity to share their stories and personalities outside the brewery walls via their packaging. One of the coolest parts about beer branding is who brewers choose to collaborate with. And the choices are endless.

  These artists, designers, marketers, and branders are the ones who bring the beer to life on the shelf. Each can label, logo, and beer name ignites the brand to the consumer. It’s their job to provide packaging design with stopping power to capture the eye and compel the shopper to grab a particular beer.

  Today, brewers use strong visual identity, storytelling, word of mouth, and digital media to achieve never-before seen growth that has leveled the playing field between big and small beer companies.

  The packaging and overall branding of a beer is the most effective means of influencing purchase at that decision-making moment, and the CBMAs felt the time had come to recognize the talent behind the creatives that makes the craft beer culture so rich and unique.

  “This is a great opportunity for designers like myself to show off some awesome work I’ve done for breweries,” said Ben Owens, founder of Phine Art Designs. “I’ve never witnessed an industry with such fast growth and transformation. Craft beer is constantly evolving. So is the design, marketing, and packaging of it.”

  Each category is judged by an influential and respected panel of beer, marketing, and design experts from all across the country.

Celebrity Judges Include:

•   Zane Lamprey, comedian, actor and writer known for TV show “Three Sheets” and new Adv3nture active gear.

•   Harry Schumacher, publisher and owner of Craft Business Daily.

•   Jeff Bricker, publisher, graphic designer and owner of Beverage Master Magazine and The Grapevine Magazine.

•   Jon Contino, creative director of branding agency, Contino Studio.

•   Ralph Steadman, the infamous artist and illustrator who is most well-known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson and Flying Dog Brewery.

  Check out the full panel of CBMAs’ judges here.

  The awards accept entrants in 30 categories, ranging from “Best Logo Design,” “Best Packaging Design” and “Best Can Design” to “Best Website Design,” “Best Merchandise Design,” and “Best Use of Social Media.” Both “Best Packaging Design” and “Best Can Design” feature “People’s Choice” sub-categories that will be voted on by fans.

Some of the Award Categories are:

•    “Best Can Design”

•    “Best Tap Handle Design”

•    “Best Original Video”

•    “Best Merchandise Design”

•    “Best Use of Social Media”

•    “Best Website Design”

•    “Beer Marketing Wild Cards”

  Entry is open to anyone involved in marketing within the brewing industry. To see the full list of categories, click here.

  “We have numerous entries in all 30 categories,” DiBella added. “This marks the beginning of what will become a long tradition of prestigious recognition and merit for brewery marketing.”

  The CBMA “Crushie” trophies were designed and manufactured by the same NYC designer awards firm that created the prestigious Emmy Award and MTV’s “Man on the Moon” statue. The Crushie Award is sculptured to depict a heavily tattooed arm crushing a beer can to symbolically represent how breweries are “crushing it” with their unique and creative beer marketing and branding.

  The Platinum Crushie is the CBMAs’ most prestigious nomination for entries demonstrating marketing and branding excellence that exceeds the defined category objectives by using strategy, creativity, and overall innovation. Only one entry – with the highest achieved ranking from each category – will receive Platinum.

  The Gold Crushie is for entries that meet or exceed the defined category objectives by using strategy, creativity, and innovative production techniques to achieve a higher level of perceived uniqueness. The CBMAs’ will award up to five Gold Crushie Awards per category.

  The “People’s Choice” Black Crushie is the most elusive of all the awards, because the CBMAs only award up to a total of five of these. Unlike Platinum and Gold, the “People’s Choice” Crushie isn’t totally reliant on the judges’ panel. Once the judging process is complete, top-ranking entries who entered the “People’s Choice” Category have an additional showdown with a public-judging panel that uses social polling to choose the final winners.

  The Crushies’ major sponsor is Hillebrand, the Germany-based freight logistics company that has a large presence in the beer, wine and spirits business. “More than ever, breweries recognize the need to prioritize their marketing strategies,” Hans added, calling the CBMAs: “…a truly unique and important event for the craft-beer industry.”

  Critical to the continued success and growth of the CBMAs’ program is the generosity and support of their sponsors and partners. The CBMAs invites you to consider supporting these great businesses:

•   Hillebrand

•   Beveraage Master Magazine

•   EGC Group

•   Brewery Branding

•   Pro Brewer

•   Don’t Panic Projects

•   KSidrane

•   DKNG

•   Hankscraft AJS Tap Handles

•   DWS Printing

•   Society Awards

•   MMX

•   Lauterbach Craft Brew Labels

•   Red Vault Productions

•   The Beer Connoisseur

  McCune and DiBella enjoyed representing the CBMAs as podcast guests on “Beer Busters,” “Tap That AZ,” “Beer-Fit–Life,” “AG Craft Beer Cast,” “Beer N Goodz,” and “Craft Beer Storm.”

CBMAs Update:

  The last couple months have brought about changes, fear, and uncertainty – especially within our beloved craft beer industry. We understand this is no time to celebrate. The Craft Beer Marketing Awards want to make sure those in our industry most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have the opportunity to focus on their business and the comeback from this.

  Making our peers the priority, the CBMAs have decided to extend the judging window by one month to Monday, May 11. Crushie Award winners will now officially be announced on Tuesday, June 16 through industry media and our social channels.

  We hope that the decision to delay the announcement allows us all to look forward to brighter days. We are rooting for you all and can’t wait to cheer when this is behind us.

  Individuals involved in the production and/or creation of winning works can purchase their personalized trophies in our CBMAs’ Award Shop, which will launch right after the winners are announced in June. Winners will be notified by email of their win, along with further instructions.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay positive.

For more information, visit or email:

  Jim McCune is director of the Craft Beverage Division of Melville-based EGC Group. Reach him at or 516.935.4944

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