Boulevard Brewing Company is hoping that several new partnerships will help reverse recent volume declines.
The Duvel Moortgat-owned craft brewery today announced one of the first craft beer endorsements by an active Major League Baseball player. The Kansas City-based craft brewery has inked a deal with Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield to promote its flagship Unfiltered Wheat brand.
Additionally, Boulevard announced a sponsorship agreement with 20th Century Fox to make its Space Camper Cosmic IPA the exclusive craft beer of Dark Phoenix, the next film in the X-Men saga.
Finally, the company is expanding its partnership with Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne, and taking the Bou Lou collaboration beer nationwide for a limited time.
The latest set of partnerships follow Boulevard’s 2017 deal with the Kansas City Royals to become the “official craft beer” of the ballclub — one of the first deals of its kind.
It’s worth noting that the endorsement deal with Merrifield comes one day after a similar arrangement between D. G. Yuengling & Son and Philadelphia Phillies all-star pitcher Aaron Nola was announced.
Such endorsement deals with active players are now possible after Major League Baseball lifted restrictions last year that prevented current players from appearing in marketing campaigns for alcohol companies.
Merrifield and Nola will now be featured in point-of-sale marketing materials for their respective beer brands as well as other advertisements, promotions and personal appearances.
With Merrifield in the fold, Boulevard is launching a campaign for flagship Unfiltered Wheat in May called “Unfiltered Whit.”
“It goes beyond just some sort of endorsement,” Duvel Moortgat vice president of sales Bobby Dykstra said. “He’s a true believer in the brand.”
“He’s a superstar or budding superstar,” Duvel Moortgat USA president Jeff Krum added, noting Merrifield league-leading 192 hits and 45 stolen bases last season.
Boulevard vice president of marketing Natalie Gershon declined to share financial terms of Merrifield’s 1-year endorsement deal, saying only that it was made on “a very Boulevard-sized budget.”
The Merrifield partnership is part of a larger effort to stabilize an Unfiltered Wheat brand that has declined in recent years but remains Boulevard’s top-selling beer, accounting for 33 percent of its volume and 25 percent of its revenue last year.
The marketing investment behind Unfiltered Wheat — which includes rebranded packaging and a new regional TV campaign — is the most Boulevard has spent behind the brand in the last decade, Dykstra said.
New TV ads featuring a character called “The Unfiltration Manager” are set to debut this spring. Gershon said the character — a brewer whose job is to ensure that Unfiltered Wheat is never filtered — was created in the spirit of The Office’s Dwight Schrute. Those spots will be broadcast during the Royals’ Fox Sports post-game show and on Hulu in the Midwest.
Meanwhile, Boulevard also announced today the first craft beer “collaboration” with 20th Century Fox, to make Space Camper IPA the exclusive beer of Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix isn’t the first pop culture franchise to align itself with a Duvel brand; HBO’s Game of Thrones has partnered with Brewery Ommegang on a line of beers for several years.
As part of the deal with Fox, Space Camper 6-packs will promote the film’s June 7 release and feature a Fandango code for discounted tickets. The IPA will also be the “AMC Feature Drink” at more than 300 MacGuffins bars in AMC Theaters nationwide.
April orders of Space Camper are up 30 percent over January, when the brand launched, Dykstra staid. He added that Space Camper is on pace to surpass Pale Ale as the company’s third-best-selling beer.
In yet another partnership, Boulevard is rolling out its collaboration with Tech N9ne called Bou Lou, a wheat beer with pineapple and coconut, nationwide through June in support of the “It Go Up” tour. Bou Lou will be sold at concert venues where the rapper is performing as well as in grocery, liquor and club stores.
“Tech has a very dedicated fanbase that are looking for this beer, and he’s able to mobilize them,” Dykstra said. “We’re reaching a new set of consumers, people who may not have heard of Boulevard before.”
Boulevard executives say the latest partnerships and non-traditional beer offerings show Boulevard’s willingness to look beyond traditional avenues for growth. Last month, the company announced plans to launch a line of ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktails called Fling.
Also debuting in April is Easy Sport, a 99-calorie, 4.5 grams of carbs “recreation ale.” The beer, which will be available only in cans, is “packed with magnesium, potassium, sea salt and a little bit of tangerine peel,” Gershon said.
Easy Sport is Boulevard’s answer to a growing number of offerings being introduced by craft brewers as a challenge to Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra and Constellation Brands’ Corona Premier, which are marketed to active lifestyle consumers interested in “better-for-you” beers.
“I think it delivers craft beer flavor with some of the nutritional stats that people are demanding,” Dykstra said. “That’s going to differentiate it.”