How award winning micro brewery Coniston Brewing Company uses sponsorship

Coniston Brewing Company beer mats JH: Tell me a bit about Coniston Brewing Company

IB:  My name is Ian Bradley and I set up Coniston Brewing Company in 1995 after studying brewing technology at University of Sunderland. 

Based at the Black Bull Hotel, Coniston, we won CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain in 1998 with our first beer, Bluebird (named after Donald Campbell’s record breaking boat).   Since then we’ve won a few other awards for our beers and now brew nine.  Our latest is our India Pale Ale.

The various awards have been really important to the success of the brewery not least because they have helped to put us on the map of the CAMRA club members who are great supporters. 

Winning the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain is like winning an Olympic gold medal – it’s opened a lot of doors.  We secured a bottling contract for Bluebird on the back of this win which put us on the shelves of Tesco’s and other nationwide supermarkets.

JH: What sponsorship activities do you do?

Inflatable Coniston Bluebird bottle
Big beer

IB:  Coniston Brewing Company sponsors three motorcyclists who have six bikes between them.  We buy the bikes for two of the riders and supply sticker kits for the other. 
We also sponsor the Cumbria Nostalgia weekend which incorporates a trial, a scramble and several road runs – all on motorcycles.

Plus we supply banners big inflatable bottles of Bluebird and a whole heap of free beer!

JH: Why did you choose these events?

IB: I have a passion for motorsport and beer so being able to combine the two was a match made in heaven for me! It’s important to me to help some local friends and to get involved with the events that I have a personal interest in.

Motorcycle events get huge interest from people who visit Cumbria and hopefully, once they see Coniston Brewing Company branding at events, they’ll be reminded to make a visit to The Black Bull to sample the beers on their home turf.

JH: How much do you spend on sponsorship a year?

IB:  Our marketing budget is very small so whatever we spend has to work very hard. We spend in the region of £10,000 on our sponsorship activity which works out very cost effective for us in terms of the payback we receive.

JB: How do quantify your return on investment for the sponsorship activity you undertake?

IB: Since we started sponsoring motorcycle events we’ve grown year on year as a microbrewery with nine beers to our name now. We sell millions of pints of beer a year and get thousands of visitors to The Black Bull.

It’s impossible to say how much of this growth can be attributed to our sponsorship activity alone as we do other marketing activity like attending beer festivals, entering competitions and advertising. 

However, we did make the cover of TMX News magazine in 2009 which I’m very proud of!

TMX News cover star
TMX News cover star

JH: What are you sponsoring at the moment?

IB: We’ve got our fingers crossed for our rider competing in the Scottish Six Days Trial in Fort William as we speak.

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