Harpoon Brewery Scores Last-Minute World Series Ad

Samuel Adams might be the official beer of the Boston Red Sox, but it was cross-town competitor Harpoon Brewery that scored a prominent World Series commercial, a first for the company, just days before the start of Game 4.

In between the singing of the National Anthem and the first pitch on Saturday night, Harpoon Brewery co-founder and CEO Dan Kenary could be heard on televisions across the greater Boston area.

“We’re not just about, ‘Hey come down here and try this exotic beer you’ve never had any place else,’” he said, as footage from the brewery rolled. “We’re more about, ‘Come down here and drink this great beer surrounded by a lot of great people as well and interact and have a wonderful time.’”

The 30-second spot, which was purchased directly from WFXT, a Fox affiliate, was a truncated version of the company’s 2015 “Love Beer. Love Life.” video package that explains the meaning behind the Harpoon motto.

Chris Bonacci, the company’s vice president of marketing, told Brewbound that the decision to run the ad was made in the days leading up to games three, four and five, which were played at Dodger Stadium.

“We’ve talked about whether or not we should shift how we go to market [with the brand],” he said. “We’ve always danced around it, and we hear from people all the time when they have ad slots available.

“It was a pretty big move for us, but we liked the idea of being a part of this World Series, with this team, and this year,” he added.

Though he wouldn’t disclose how much the commercial cost, Bonacci said it was “more” than what Harpoon would “normally spend on advertising.”

“I was in the middle of doing a budget review for Q4, and we had some funds that hadn’t been allocated,” he said. “It was a great opportunity, and it seemed like a great time to try it out.”

According to Bonacci, this was the first time in Harpoon’s 32-year history that it has spent money on a television ad.

Approximately 15 percent of the company’s marketing budget is reserved for various print, radio, and digital advertising opportunities, and Harpoon typically dedicates most of that spend on experiential marketing initiatives, such as beer festivals and other consumer engagement activities.

But that strategy is beginning to shift as the craft beer category gets more competitive, Bonacci said.

“It’s very different than when we started out in the ’80s or even in the ’90s,” he said. “It is incredibly competitive, and so we need to start looking at options that we wouldn’t ordinarily consider.”

In addition to airing on Saturday, the 30-second ad also ran during pregame coverage of Game 3, on Friday, about an hour before the first pitch — a time slot that is less desirable because fewer viewers are tuned in.

Nevertheless, Bonacci believes Saturday’s ad could have reached approximately 26 percent of the households in the greater Boston market.

“I’m just glad the night this aired – between the National Anthem and the first pitch – that Boston won,” he said, noting his lifelong Red Sox fandom. “I still worry about jinxes and am superstitious.”

Harpoon isn’t the first beer company to make a last-minute bet on advertising its flagship IPA during the World Series. Last year, Constellation Brands ran a 15-second ad for its Ballast Point Sculpin IPA during Game 7 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The decision to promote Sculpin was made in the hours leading up to the first pitch, according to CMO Jim Sabia.

Boston Beer Company also debuted its “Fill your Glass” commercial during last year’s World Series Game 7.

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