I was chatting with a couple of friends the other day who are not in the drinks industry. It's always funny to see their reaction when they ask what I'm up to, but this time when I told them I had been invited to Leeds to judge a cocktail competition for Cazadores tequila, I was surprised by what they had to say. One thought I was joking and didn't really believe that bartenders have competitions and the other said that it must just be a thinly desguised excuse for a piss up. Now I can understand the reaction, but it got me thinking about how important competitions really are to the drinks trade.
I guess even from an outsiders point of view there are some obvious reasons for comps. I mean from a brand point of view it is a no brainer. You can create a good buzz around your products, potentially get new drinks on menus, maybe grab some column inches in the trade press and most importantly get bartenders using your brand.
On the most basic level all a brand needs to do is throw some stock at a bar, invite a select few bartenders to come up with a couple of new drinks that fit whatever criteria you want to set, line up some judges, invite the journalists and line up a good prize. The result is several weeks of bartenders talking about the fact they are in your competition, trying out new recipes on customers and co-workers, and promoting your products to anyone who will listen. After the comp they will still sell their signature drinks, maybe even add them to their next drinks list and they will most likely reach for your brand over one of your competitors when they can.