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Athletic Brewing’s $60M Non-Alcoholic Playbook

Dry January was easier than ever.

In fact, the low to no alcohol lifestyle has been trending up over the last five years.

  • Up from $8B to $11B in 2018
  • Search volume for “non alcoholic” is up 156%

And one brand that has grabbed this category by the horns is Athletic Brewing.

Founded in 2018, it became the second-largest non-alcoholic beer brand in the U.S. with revenue topping $60M in 2022.

Here’s how they did it.

Turn Insights into Campaigns

There are plenty of campaigns that advertise in “Dry January.”

But Athletic Brewing took it a step further with the “Give Dry a Try” campaign because of one insight they discovered:

“Most people who try us in January stick with us for the full year”.

So the goal is to get as many new customers as possible and get them to stick around for the full month.

This is how they set up the program:

  1. Remove the barrier of trying by offering 50% off the first month of subscription. Plus, you can also give it as a gift!
  2. Maintain motivation with gamification
  • Athletic Brewing took a page from Duolingo’s playbook. They built a “Track Record” feature on its app and website to show users their streak of non-drinking days.

3. Amplify on social: They coordinated a social activation with their brand ambassadors across social to share tips for how they stayed alcohol-free for January.

The success of their entire year hinged on maximizing eyeballs in January.

So they used two tactics:

1. A sweepstake with a Ski Vacation reward worth $10,000.

  • One share = one entry.
  • More shares = more entries.

2. A referral program that rewards both the giver & recipient to incentivize more referrals.

Embrace non-traditional marketing

In 2018, non-alcoholic wasn’t cool.

It was for “DDs” and recovering alcoholics.

So they tried a new go-to-market approach, highlighting the “better for you” elements of its drinks, and reinvented the image of non-alcoholic brews.

They zeroed in on their target audience, defined as, “young, modern, healthy adults” and “heavily barbelled in the 24 to 44 demo.”

Brand activation at sports events

They invested heavily in showing up at sports events like Iron Man, Spartan, and local marathons; because that’s where the healthy and active people are.

In one year, the brand did 2500 activations, giving away samples at the finish line. That’s about 8 events a day!

When someone crosses a finish line, AB is right there to hand them a drink.

And it works because that is a forever-cherished moment that is going to be shared with friends & family everywhere, especially online.

And that’s when and where word of mouth happens.

Partnership with Top Athletes

They partnered with JJ Watt, one of the toughest defensive ends in professional football.

The hidden message: drinking non-alcoholic isn’t weak.

A key to rebranding the category.

They also formed partnerships with college athletes to appeal to Gen Z and millennial sports fans.

Athletic Brewing’s CMO, Andrew Katz, sums up their success perfectly in an interview:

“Advertising is the last thing people want, people want connections.”

Think about their approach through the lens of fostering connections:

  1. You do the “Give Dry A Try” campaign with your friends.
  2. You enter a referral-based sweepstakes to go on a group vacation.
  3. They sponsor sporting events where friends and family commemorate big achievements.

Sure, they were advertising, but they were also bringing people together.

So to take a play out of AB’s playbook, take a step back.

  1. Turn insights into campaigns.
  2. To foster connection, remove friction, bolster motivation, and amplify on social.
  3. Embrace non-traditional marketing to meet your customers where they’re at.

Above all else - remember that nobody wants to see advertising.

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