Sober-Curious: How to Build a Non-Alcoholic Event
Alcohol is a major component of events of every stripe these days, particularly in the United States. But for attendees who don’t want to consume alcohol, for any number of reasons, finding a non-alcoholic experience to participate in has historically been challenging. Fortunately, brands have begun to take note of the fast-growing booze-free demographic, much of which is comprised of younger generations, and are delivering live experiences that cater to their needs. Here’s a look at how four brands build non-alcoholic events for the “sober-curious.”
Botanical beverage brand Kin, which promises “all bliss, no booze,” activates a non-alcoholic experience at Summit ideas festival for an exclusive group of attendees. During happy hour, the brand serves non-alcoholic cocktails at the conference’s outdoor wellness hub, where attendees can be found participating in yoga, sound healing and meditation. At night, Kin offers a booze-free pop-up speakeasy experience in the basement of the L.A. Theatre that attendees have to discover through word-of-mouth or a personal invite. The space resembles an upscale cocktail lounge—sans cocktails. The “bartender” asks each attendee what they are bringing, and what they hope to gain from their experience, then whip up a custom drink with a mix of tonics and herbs based on their answer. An herbalist then approaches to explain each beverage’s ingredients and why they are chosen. A delicious example of non-alcoholic events done right.
THE MOCKTAIL PROJECT/WILLIAM GRANT & SONS
Tales of the Cocktail is one of the spirits industry’s preeminent events, but the conversation at this year’s conference takes a new turn, focusing heavily on alcohol-free consumption. Helping to drive that conversation is The Mocktail Project, a brand aimed at creating a more inclusive drinking culture. The Mocktail Project is part of the conference’s “Beyond the Bar” content track focused on bartender wellness and abstinence. Naturally, the brand produces a mocktail bar for the event, which is sponsored by Brown-Forman, a nod to the fact that alcohol-free beverages are resonating with top-tier spirits brands, too.
In a similar vein, William Grant & Sons, which includes brands like Hendrick’s and Sailor Jerry under its umbrella, makes a gutsy move by hosting a non-alcoholic “Spirit Free and Dreaming” opening event at the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail conference. The experience features a dozen bars representing William Grant & Sons’ brands, each one offering elaborate, booze-free cocktails inspired by that particular brand. Why? According to Charlotte Voisey, head of ambassadors at William Grant & Sons, “We wanted to prove that we can come together as an industry and have fun, and we don’t have to drink to that.” Inspiring non-alcoholic events indeed.
Heineken is one of the first spirits brands in recent history to (successfully) market a non-alcoholic beer. The brand’s alcohol-free 0.0 product is a hit with younger generations, and has been served at events that attract the demographic, like Coachella and the inaugural Mindful Drinking Festival. As a leading sponsor of the Mindful Drinking Festival, Heineken leverages its master brewer, Willem van Waesberghe, who is on-site to explain more about the 0.0 product, and how it’s made, to attendees. According to Waesberghe ,“We were delighted to welcome so many fans and teach them more about Heineken 0.0. This new beer gives consumers choice for a variety of drinking occasions. It also contributes to the growing trend around the importance of responsible alcohol consumption and living a balanced, healthy lifestyle.”
Non-alcoholic events aren’t just a fad. As consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Zers, continue to place greater importance on health and wellness, the concept will only gain in popularity. Accordingly, it behooves event marketers to not only educate themselves on non-alcoholic beverage offerings, but also to dig deeper into why consumers are opting for booze-free drinks—and leverage that information to deliver more authentic and engaging, spirits-free experiences. Now that’s worth raising a (non-alcoholic) drink to.
Check out brand activations designed and produced by Sparks.
Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker
Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.