MillerCoors is taking bowling alleys to school on how to sell more beer.
In a move to boost its on-premises sales, the Chicago-based brewer last week announced an expanded two-year partnership with the governing body of bowling that will give MillerCoors direct access to around 70 percent of bowling centers in the U.S. to share its insight on maximizing beer revenue.
The deal, announced last week by bowling industry marketing arm Strike Ten Entertainment, makes MillerCoors “The Official Beer of Bowling” and involves around 3,500 bowling centers nationwide that are members of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, the industry’s trade association.
The centerpiece of the deal is MillerCoors’ “Building With Beer” initiative, a beer-serving education platform it developed over the past few years with educational tools and best practices to help retailers grow their beer sales and, hopefully in turn, MillerCoors’ bottom line.
Playing the role of beer consultants with the help of customer behavior data, the program offers retailers insight that MillerCoors argues will help sell more beer. That includes preaching about offering the optimal mix of craft options, imports and premium light beers to get customers to stay longer and spend more.
Its category management approach has proven a useful resource for convenience stores and concessionaires, says John Beck, MillerCoors vice president of on-premises national accounts. Now, it’s hoping it can tap the bowling industry with a similar tack.
“We’ve got a very active trade group that wants to elevate the education and fact-based approach to the beer category,” Beck said. “And we believe we can grow the size of our portfolio working collectively with bowling centers.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it included Strike Ten Entertainment hiring a “trade brewer” to help connect MillerCoors with its thousands of bowling center operators.
BATTLING THE CRAFT TREND
If teaching best practices when it comes to beer sales helps anyone, it’s major brewers like MillerCoors.
“As retailers become better beer salesmen, it benefits the guys that have a lot of brands. The craft guys can only talk about craft and what craft can do for you,” said David Henkes, vice president of Chicago-based food and beverage consulting firm Technomic. “It’s in the interest of a big brewer like MillerCoors to (educate bowling centers) because they’re going to get a big part of the gain in any (sales) increase.”
The beer education approach isn’t novel, said Henkes, but it’s becoming more valuable as beer sellers look for more data analysis to back up their decisions.
For convenience stores, that may be something as simple as where to place certain products on shelves. For bowling alleys, MillerCoors wants to share, for example, data that show patrons drinking American light lagers spend an average of 19 minutes longer on the premises.
That could be “three bowling games instead of just one,” Beck said.
Bowling centers are only a small piece of the beer-consumption venues, falling into the recreation category, which accounts for 14 percent of all beer sales, according to Technomic.
But on-premises sales are a point of emphasis. Consumer spending on beer through on-premises channels grew 1.4 percent over the past two years, lagging well behind the growth of retail sales over that time, Technomic’s data show.
That’s what makes the estimated 67 million people who bowl every year an attractive target to grow business, according to the BPAA.
“Drinking beer and bowling are synonymous,” said John Harbuck, president of Arlington, Texas-based Strike Ten Entertainment. “We’re focusing on building better profits with beer, building better menu programs and also facilitating seasonal brand promotions throughout the year.”