Navigating the World of Agencies for Alcohol Brands

Learn about the different types of agencies for alcohol brands, where they intersect, how they are different and the value they provide to suppliers.

As a beverage alcohol supplier, you may be looking for an agency to help grow your brand and may have even started browsing through some of the options already. While there aren’t any official categories for the different kinds of agencies that exist in our industry, we have identified 10 main types of agencies and will explain the purpose of each one, what services they offer and which clients they cater to. At the same time, it is important to remember that there can be a lot of overlap between what the agency types offer. Additionally, a beverage alcohol supplier may need to work with more than one agency to achieve its goals. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of agencies for alcohol brands, where they intersect, and how they are different.

What are the main categories of agencies for alcohol brands?

  1. Market research agencies
  2. Regulatory and compliance agencies
  3. Traditional brand management creative agencies
  4. Promotions agency
  5. PR agencies
  6. Creative promotional agency at the point of sale
  7. Sales agencies/brokers
  8. Experiential marketing agencies
  9. Sampling agencies
  10. E-commerce agencies

How Agencies Fit into Each Stage of a Brand’s Lifecycle

A beverage supplier can engage one or more agency types at any given stage of their alcohol brand’s lifecycle. During the Plan stage, for instance, the supplier works on launching a new brand or re-branding an existing one. They may collaborate with a market research agency and traditional brand management agency to develop a framework for the brand. These agencies would handle critical activities such as research and development, brand identity and positioning, and route-to-market strategy.

In the Reach stage, the supplier’s focus is to create consumer demand or purchase intent from accounts/trade. To achieve this, a beverage alcohol supplier may partner with a PR agency or creative promotional agency at the point of sale. These agencies can handle any external brand materials that could be used to reach their target audience, including content creation, design and printing of promo materials, social media management, and development of beverage and cocktail programs.

During the Act stage, the supplier aims to sell into on- and off-premise accounts and may partner with a sales agency or broker to support those efforts. In contrast, the Convert stage focuses on directly influencing consumer purchases inside accounts. To support those efforts, suppliers may enlist the help of an experiential marketing agency or a sampling agency. The same agencies would also work during the Engage stage of the brand’s lifecycle, where the supplier’s goal is to ensure brand loyalty in both consumers and trade accounts.

1. Market Research Agencies

These agencies provide data and insights on beverage alcohol market trends, consumer preferences, and sales patterns. They may conduct surveys and focus groups, analyze sales data, and provide customized reports to help their clients make informed business decisions. Their target customers are typically beverage alcohol producers, importers, and distributors who want to stay informed about the latest industry trends and make data-driven decisions.

Who Market Research Agencies Serve

Agencies that specialize in market research can work with suppliers of any size. Based on this, the required investment also ranges from small to large. Essentially, they work to collect data through surveys and focus groups, analyze sales data, and provide customized reports to clients. In particular, they are looking to gain insights on market trends, consumer preferences, and sales patterns.

Examples of Market Research Agencies

Some of the larger and more recognizable market research agencies that work with alcohol brands include: IWSR, Nielsen, and Market Insights and Research.

2. Regulatory and Compliance Agencies

These agencies specialize in navigating the complex web of regulations and compliance issues related to beverage alcohol sales and distribution. They may assist with obtaining and renewing licenses and permits, ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations, and handling tax and reporting requirements. Their target customers are usually beverage alcohol suppliers and distributors who need help navigating the complex and ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Who Regulatory and Compliance Agencies Serve

This is another area where the agency will serve suppliers or all sizes and the necessary investment can also vary widely. The agency will focus on regulation and compliance issues related to sales and distribution. As part of this, they will assist with obtaining and renewing licenses and permits, ensuring compliance with state and federal regulation, and handling tax and reporting requirements.

3. Traditional Brand Management and Creative Agencies

Typically, these agencies are based in major cities and work with larger clients to innovate and develop brands and brand positioning. Traditional brand management creative agencies can play a crucial role for beverage alcohol suppliers by helping to develop unique brand identity that will ultimately drive sales. Based on the primary customer demographic for these agencies, the client can expect to make a large investment. Although most of these traditional brand management and creative agencies focus on enterprise suppliers and large brands, there are some creative agencies, like High-Proof, that will work with smaller brands on a budget.

Over the years, I have observed the industry’s pain points and struggles, and that’s why it’s so important to me that High-Proof Creative is a niche agency and that we truly understand the industry trends, regulations, and nuances. Companies often have small budgets — so there isn’t money or time to redo work that doesn’t meet TTB standards, for example.

-Karen Locke, Founder of High-Proof Creative

Examples of Traditional Brand Management and Creative Agencies

Some examples of traditional agencies include Anomaly, BBDO, Mother, 72andSunny, WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Quaker City Mercantile, and High-Proof Creative. 

4. Promotions Agencies

Promotions agencies can play an important role for beverage alcohol suppliers by helping to drive sales and build brand awareness through promotional activities. Some key roles that promotions agencies may play for beverage alcohol suppliers include:

  • Consumer promotions: Promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers create consumer promotions that incentivize consumers to purchase their products. This may involve developing sweepstakes, contests, rebates, and other promotions that encourage trial and repeat purchases.
  • Trade promotions: Promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers create trade promotions that incentivize distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to promote and sell their products. This may involve developing promotional programs that offer discounts, rebates, and other incentives for trade customers.
  • Sampling programs: Promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers develop and execute sampling programs that allow consumers to try their products. This may involve coordinating in-store sampling events, creating sampling kits for home use, or coordinating with event organizers to offer sampling opportunities at festivals and other events.
  • Merchandising: Promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers create eye-catching point-of-sale displays and other merchandising materials that help their products stand out on store shelves. This may involve creating signage, display fixtures, and other promotional materials that help communicate the brand message and drive sales.
  • Sponsorship activations: Promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers activate sponsorships of sports teams, cultural events, and other sponsorships. This may involve developing promotional materials, creating experiential marketing activations, and coordinating with event organizers to maximize exposure and drive sales.

Overall, promotions agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers develop and execute promotional activities that drive sales, increase brand awareness, and build customer loyalty.

Who Promotions Agencies Serve

Promotions agencies serve a wide variety of clients that include both on and off premise suppliers. They also offer scalable services to meet the needs of suppliers of all sizes. As a result, the required investment will also range from small to large. Promotional services are great for digital marketing and content creation along with end-to-end branded POS and asset execution.  

Examples of Promotions Agencies

Some notable examples of promotions agencies include Jack Morton, Moosylvannia, Hart Agency, Mojo, HH Global, Tangerine, IMS, and ADM.

5. PR Agencies

PR (public relations) agencies can play an important role for alcohol brands by helping to shape their public image and reputation. Some key roles that PR agencies may play for alcohol brands include: branding and messaging, media relations, and crisis management, and social media management.

Who PR Agencies Serve

PR agencies can partner with suppliers of all sizes, so investments will vary.

PR Agency Services

PR (public relations) agencies can play an important role for alcohol brands by helping to shape their public image and reputation. Some key roles that PR agencies may play for alcohol brands include:

Branding and messaging

PR agencies can work with alcohol brands to develop a unique brand identity and messaging that resonates with their target audience. This may involve developing a brand story, identifying key brand attributes, and crafting messaging that communicates the brand’s values and personality.

Spirits have seen tremendous growth over the past few years, from classic whiskies to innovative RTDs. With that growth inevitably comes a more crowded marketplace, and it is critical to convey a creative and accurate message about a brand, right down to the specific expression being communicated about. That’s where we come in; our job is to hone in, develop and deliver our clients key messages to the appropriate audience in a relatable and interesting way, who in turn can share it with their circle (ideally with a cocktail in hand).

-Sara Gorelick, VP, Spirits at Colangelo & Partners

Media relations

PR agencies can help alcohol brands build relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other influencers in the media. This may involve pitching stories and press releases, coordinating interviews, and managing media inquiries.

The wine media landscape has seen a lot of change in the last few years; critics and reviewers starting their own independent publications, media publications moving from earned to paid media formats, and the rise of influencer marketing – just to name a few. A dynamic PR agency will help wine brands navigate the evolving field of wine media, and help them keep their brand in the press on a consistent basis.

Juliana Colangelo, VP, California at Colangelo & Partners

Crisis management 

In the event of a negative event or crisis, PR agencies can help alcohol brands navigate the situation and protect their reputation. This may involve developing a crisis communication plan, managing media inquiries, and working to mitigate any negative impact on the brand.

Event planning and activation

PR agencies can help alcohol brands plan and execute events that engage with their target audience, such as product launches, tastings, and sponsorships. This may involve identifying event opportunities, managing logistics, and coordinating with other vendors and partners.

Social media management

PR agencies can help alcohol brands manage their social media presence and engage with their audience on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This may involve developing a social media strategy, creating content, and managing social media campaigns.

Overall, PR agencies can help alcohol brands build a positive reputation and connect with their target audience through a variety of tactics and strategies.

6. Creative Promotional Agencies at the Point of Sale

Creative agencies at the point of sale act as deal brokers between hospitality groups/chains at the corporate level and the chain and national accounts divisions of suppliers. They help develop cocktail and menu strategies, execute demonstrations and samplings, provide education, and coordinate the rollout of new products, and printing, among other services.

The Role of Creative Agencies at the Point of Sale

Creative agencies can play a crucial role in helping beverage alcohol suppliers and national chain accounts develop and execute effective marketing campaigns that resonate with consumers and drive sales. These agencies specialize in developing creative concepts and advertising materials that effectively communicate a brand’s message and capture the attention of target audiences.

They are the gatekeepers for many national accounts beverage programming, have intricate knowledge of the beverage sales and operational challenges within the account, have the trust of the beverage director and assist in developing targeted, executable and account specific LTOs (limited time offers) and full program offerings.

-Tineke Hansma, VP National Accounts at C2L

Some companies that C2L represents include Lucas Bols USA, Pomp and Whimsy, Socialite Vodka Soda, Horse Soldier Bourbon, Devils River Whiskey, and more.

For beverage alcohol suppliers, a creative agency at the point of sale might work to develop advertising materials such as print and digital ads, social media campaigns, email marketing, and point-of-sale materials. The agency may also develop promotional concepts or campaigns that tie into a supplier’s overall marketing strategy, such as seasonal promotions, limited edition products, or partnerships with other brands.

The Role of Creative Agencies for Chain Accounts

For national chain accounts, creative agencies can help develop marketing campaigns that are tailored to the unique needs and preferences of their target audience. These campaigns may include developing in-store displays, creative promotions, or social media content that highlights a specific beverage alcohol brand or product line. They also own and handle the RFP process for on-premise accounts. Additional services can include operational activities, such as managing new openings, on-site training, etc.

In both cases, creative agencies play a crucial role in helping to develop and maintain a consistent brand identity across all marketing materials and channels. By working closely with beverage alcohol suppliers and national chain accounts, a creative agency can ensure that their messaging is clear, effective, and resonates with their target audience.

Ultimately, the role of a creative agency for beverage alcohol suppliers and national chain accounts is to help develop and execute effective marketing campaigns that drive sales and build brand awareness. By creating compelling advertising materials and promotional concepts, a creative agency can help these brands stand out in a crowded market and drive revenue growth.

Examples of Creative Agencies

Creative agencies are solely focused on on-premise alcohol sales and look to partner with national chain account operators. Patrick Henry Creative Promotions (PHCP) is one example and they work with major chains, including Applebees, the Cheesecake factory, and many other recognizable brands.

Cost of Creative Agencies for Alcohol Brands

Since they work with national chains and major brands, partnering with them requires a large investment. Typically, the contracts are structured either with a flat fee or a percentage of any fee collected on the client’s behalf from the suppliers. 

Examples of Experiential Marketing and Brand Management Agencies

Some notable experiential agencies include the Greenhouse Agency which works with Brown Forman, TEAM Enterprise, which handles Bacardi, and Enthuse which partners with Daigeo.

Cost of Experiential Marketing and Brand Management Agencies

These agencies require large investments and contracts on a national, regional, and state level but execute on a local level with consumers and trade mostly on-premise.  

Essentially, experiential agencies are a good choice for brands and suppliers who are looking for help managing brands. They are able to provide market representation at events and spreadhead sales-related events. These types of agencies are engaged in higher-level marketing projects with the help of experiential trade and consumer activations.   

7. Sales Agencies and Brokers 

Sales agencies and brokers can play an essential role in helping beverage alcohol suppliers reach new customers and increase their sales volume. These agencies specialize in building relationships with retailers, distributors (who may handle domestic and import products), and other key players in the beverage alcohol industry and leveraging those relationships to increase sales and distribution of their supplier’s products. They can also provide a salesforce to brands that aren’t large enough to support their own dedicated salesforce. 

The Role of Sales Agencies or Brokers

Some of the main activities that a sales agency or broker will handle are:

  • Securing new accounts by leveraging their existing industry relationships
  • Negotiating pricing and terms with distributors and retailers
  • Providing ongoing support for their products. 

Additionally, sales agencies and brokers may be able to provide market insights and data that can help the supplier make informed decisions about pricing, product development, and marketing strategies.

How Sales Agencies and Brokers Offer Ongoing Support

In terms of offering ongoing support to beverage alcohol suppliers, a sales agency or broker does the following:

  • Conducts in-store samplings
  • Trains staff on the supplier’s products
  • Provides feedback on consumer preferences and trends

This ongoing support can help ensure that the supplier’s products are being presented and marketed effectively, and that they are meeting the needs and preferences of their target audience. When it comes to handling smaller suppliers, the salesforce will represent a portfolio of smaller brands so that SME suppliers can take advantage of a sales and brokerage agency. 

In addition to their role in sales and distribution, sales agencies and brokers may also provide other services to beverage alcohol suppliers, such as logistics support, marketing, and brand development. These additional services can help suppliers build a comprehensive strategy for growing their business and reaching new customers.

Using Sales Agencies and Brokers to Meet Your Goals

Overall, the role of sales agencies and brokers for beverage alcohol suppliers is to help increase sales and distribution of their products by leveraging their relationships and expertise in the industry. By providing ongoing support and strategic guidance, sales agencies and brokers can help suppliers reach their goals and achieve long-term success in the beverage alcohol market.

Examples of Sales Agencies and Brokers

Clients can expect to make a moderate investment to receive services and contracts are often structured as a hybrid of commissions-based contracting and flat rate. Some major sales and brokerage agencies that serve the beverage industry include Brittany Sales, which works with Pierre Ferrand, Gadabout Goods, Spirited Insiders, and Twenty20Beverages.

8. Experiential Marketing Agencies 

Experiential marketing agencies can play a significant role in helping beverage alcohol suppliers promote their products and build brand awareness. These agencies specialize in creating engaging and memorable experiences that allow consumers to interact with a brand and its products in a meaningful way. They deal specifically with on-premise and trade sales that represent medium to large suppliers.

For beverage alcohol suppliers, experiential marketing can involve:

1. Immersive Events or Activations

Immersive events or activations allow consumers to taste, learn about, and experience their products firsthand. For example, an agency might create a pop-up bar or tasting event that showcases a supplier’s range of wines, beers, or spirits. The agency could also work with a supplier to develop a unique, on-brand concept or theme.

2. Staffing Solutions 

An experiential marketing agency offers staffing solutions that support specific initiatives. They can provide a dedicated sales force and employ and train the people who are working in the field. “There’s some interesting overlap between the experiential agencies and staffing agencies,” according to Todd Richman, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Overproof. “In fact, some of the experiential agencies will do their own staffing for tastings or will outsource staffing to a tastings agency.” For the most part, consumers simply assume that any representatives in the field directly work for the brand or supplier. 

3. Social Media and Influencer Campaigns

An experiential agency will often help beverage alcohol suppliers develop and execute social media and influencer marketing campaigns to further promote their products and events. By working with influencers and developing engaging social media content, an agency can help a supplier reach a wider audience and build buzz around their products.

The importance of agencies cannot be understated in the spirits industry. Agencies take an idea and bring them to life. From ideation and briefing to execution, to recapping, they provide the support and teams necessary to get the job done while you focus on managing your workflow and other projects. Agencies also specialize in certain fields. While it would be possible to hire internally for many roles and types of functionalities, agencies have detailed insights and experience that allow them to think of and execute on things larger marketing companies may not even think of.

-Kris Bahamondes, Advocacy Lead Patrón USA, TEAM Enterprises

Overall, experiential marketing agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers create unique and engaging experiences that build brand awareness and promote their products in a way that is both effective and memorable.

Examples of Experiential Marketing Agencies

Some notable examples of experiential marketing agencies include Greenhouse Agency, which works with Brown Forman, TEAM Enterprises, which works with Bacardi, and MKTG, which works with Diageo. A few other examples of experiential marketing agencies are Enthuse Marketing Group, Momentum Worldwide, Hawk Eye / Epsilon, Legacy, and BFG Agency.

9. Sampling 

Sampling agencies can play an important role in helping beverage alcohol suppliers promote their products and educate consumers about their unique flavor profiles, production processes, and other important details. These agencies specialize in providing consumers with opportunities to sample and learn about different types of wine, beer, and spirits in a controlled, educational setting.

For beverage alcohol suppliers, a sampling agency can help organize and execute tasting events that allow consumers to try their products and learn more about their brand. These events may be held at a variety of locations, such as wine shops, liquor stores, restaurants, or other venues. The sampling agency may work with the supplier to develop a tasting menu that highlights different products, flavor profiles, or food pairings.

Training Services

Sampling agencies can also provide training and education to staff at bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol. This training may cover topics such as proper serving techniques, food pairings, and general product knowledge. By providing education and training, a tasting agency can help ensure that beverage alcohol suppliers’ products are being served and presented in a way that maximizes their flavor and appeal.

Online Services

In addition to in-person tastings and education, sampling agencies can also provide virtual tastings and online educational resources for consumers. These may include guided tastings via video conference or pre-recorded tasting videos that consumers can watch at their own pace.

Why Sampling Agencies are So Important to Alcohol Brands

Overall, the role of tasting agencies for beverage alcohol suppliers is to provide opportunities for consumers to try their products and learn more about their brand, production processes, and flavor profiles. By providing education and training to staff and consumers alike, tasting agencies can help suppliers build brand awareness, increase sales, and promote responsible alcohol consumption.

Why Sampling Agencies Work for Brands all of Sizes

Tastings and promotional events can be held at liquor stores and special events in order to target specific demographics. This allows them to take advantage of both on and off-premise events and to work with suppliers of all sizes. Because they offer scalable services, they are able to work with clients of all sizes and contract on the national, regional, state, and local levels. 

Examples of Tastings & Sampling Agencies

Examples of tasting and promotional agencies include Dragon Spirits, Forte Event Marketing, Solely Beverage, Poplife99, Promosocial, Winetaster’s Choice, and Demo. 

10. E-Commerce Agencies

E-commerce agencies play a crucial role in helping beverage alcohol suppliers succeed in the digital marketplace. These agencies specialize in building and managing online stores for beverage alcohol suppliers, and they offer a range of services that help to optimize sales and drive growth.

Below are some of the key roles that e-commerce agencies play for beverage alcohol suppliers.

Building and managing online stores

E-commerce agencies have the expertise to build and manage online stores that are optimized for beverage alcohol sales. They can design and develop websites that are user-friendly, visually appealing, and fully functional.

Providing digital marketing services

E-commerce agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers reach their target audience through targeted digital marketing campaigns. They can create and manage email marketing campaigns, social media advertising, and other forms of online advertising.

Managing inventory and fulfillment

E-commerce agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers manage inventory and fulfillment processes. They can provide inventory management software and order fulfillment services to ensure that customers receive their orders quickly and accurately.

Optimizing the customer experience

E-commerce agencies can help beverage alcohol suppliers optimize the customer experience on their online store. They can provide tools and features that make it easy for customers to browse and purchase products, as well as customer service tools that help to resolve issues quickly.

Overall, e-commerce agencies provide a range of services that are essential for beverage alcohol suppliers looking to succeed in the digital marketplace. By partnering with an e-commerce agency, suppliers can leverage their expertise to increase sales, grow their business, and stay ahead of the competition.

The World of Agencies Wrapped Up

Finding the right spirits marketing agency depends largely on the size of your company, your goals, and how you want to engage with customers. There are a lot of marketing agencies out there, so it is a good idea to work with an agency that has experience and expertise in the spirits industry. The right partnership can help you outsource tasks and build your brand. 

FAQs

What are the different types of agencies for alcohol brands? 

There different types of agencies for alcohol brands are market research agencies, regulatory and compliance agencies, traditional brand management creative agencies, PR agencies, promotions agencies, creative promotional agencies at the point of sale, sales agencies/brokers, experiential marketing agencies, sampling agencies and e-commerce agencies.

How much do agencies cost? Which type is the right fit for my business? 

Creative agencies and experiential marketing and brand management agencies typically require a larger investment. Working with a tasting and promotions agency means that the investment can be of any size from small to large while sales agencies involve a moderate investment. The right fit will depend on your goals, your budget, the type contract you are interested in and where your primary premise focus is. 

How can I increase my alcohol sales? 

Clarify your brand and establish and execute marketing campaigns. Host experiential events for potential clients alongside tastings and utilize a sales force that can connect with the marketplace.

How do I promote my liquor brand? 

Brand activations, sampling events, social media, and an informed salesforce along with other marketing strategies will help you promote and grow your brand. 

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