An Open Letter to The Seattle Kraken:
(In a Facebook post of March 11, 2021, the Seattle Kraken included a photo, below, of a new kiosk sponsored by Coors Brewing of Golden, Colorado…I mention Colorado only because, well, it ain’t Washington and the mind-numbing spectacle of watching yet another pro sports franchise come into this state and instantly throw tons of business to an out-of-state megacorp rears its ugly head…again. Last time, it was when Vulcan Enterprises and First & Goal, Paul Allen’s firms that oversaw and managed the building of what is now called CenturyLink Field – home of the Seattle Seahawks – stuffed the taps of that facility – built with a TON of public funding – with Anheuser Busch dishwater lagers and the phony craft ales of their subsidiary former craft breweries they bought to try to purchase that which they had NO hope of earning on their own: Craft Beer Cred. I locked up in a three-year battle with their legion of pallid mouthpieces, all of whom showed absolutely NO understanding of why allowing foreign-owned crap beers to dominate the available taps at a facility built with money donated by the citizens of a state that is perennially among the top four states in craft beer production is a BAD idea. They eventually caved…a bit, and started buying from a VERY limited number of state and local Seattle breweries but it was and still is, at best, transparent tokenism.
Now, we see this inevitable celebratory post from the Kraken, trumpeting to one of the most craft-savvy fan bases in America, an alliance with yet another of the AB/InBev umbrella “breweries”. It could be used in schools to illustrate the term “tone deaf”. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Sound familiar? To the Kraken’s principal owner, film mega-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, it should. Audience research is at the heart of all those great action-adventure films Bruckheimer turns out and the depth to which that research goes into psychographics and buying habits is legendary.
This would be a really great time for Jerry to read such information – readily available – on Seattle.
I was moved (and spooked) enough to crank out this response, which I post here because…well because it IS about the adult beverages which are at the heart of The Pour Fool…)
Architect’s rendering of the glitzy Coors Kiosk to be a part of the new Seattle facility, Climate Pledge Arena.
“In response to your celebratory Facebook post about that Coors kiosk…I have to call this stuff out.
I’m an inaugural season ticket holder of our new team. It’s exciting and has started with the greatest momentum of any sports franchise – let alone hockey franchise – in the past twenty years and maybe ever. So, I’m asking – as someone with skin in the game – and SUGGESTING that the Kraken do BETTER than all those teams and facilities that don’t have their support base or their cultural setting.
FACT: Washington is one of the four largest beer producing states in the US. California is #1 and 2, 3, and 4 rotate between Oregon, Colorado, and WA state. We have one of the most robust beer economies in the nation, based almost solely upon many hundreds of small breweries. We don’t have a mega-brewery here, churning out pallid domestic lagers in vast quantities brewed in 20,000 gallon tanks. We are a state which, for the first twenty years of our brewing community, didn’t even package 98% of all our native beers because we drank them all. We were VERY late to bottling and canning beer and even when we did, it wasn’t distributed to much more than this corner of America.
One of our local breweries, Mac & Jack’s in Redmond, was, for years, the world’s largest keg-only brewery (before they started canning) and their flagship ale, African Amber, is among the two or three most popular small brewery beers in the US. It outsells Bud and Miller AND COORS(!), in the state’s taverns. Georgetown’s Manny’s Pale Ale is a close second. WE ARE A CRAFT BEER STATE. Even our main domestic lager, Rainier, was a small brewery product. Sure, we have a market here for the mega-producers and folks who really prefer those beers absolutely should be able to get their faves at Climate Pledge. But those faves are NOT, justifiably, more important or appealing than what’s brewed HERE.
It’s this simple: We brew a LOT of beer in Washington. The vast majority of your fan base are Washington residents. Craft beer – and our BOOMING wine culture and exploding distilled spirits scene – is NOT some artsy affectation that’s only of interest to bored hipsters and effete non-sports fans. It is bedrock business in this state and MOST Washingtonians either have a friend or family member who works in the brewing/wine/distillery culture or is related to somebody who is. THIS simple: IF YOU EXPECT SUPPORT FROM WASHINGTONIANS, SUPPORT US. I know that climbing in bed with some deep-pocket corporate interest like Coors makes life easier for you. As with Century Link Field, you decide you need a “craft shack” that sells something which suggests craft brewing? Coors will just pay for the whole thing and handle all logistics and – Voila! – you have beer to sell, without lifting a finger. But, while they MAY stick a local brewery or two into the mix, as they have at CLink, it will likely be only one from the AB/InBev stable of acquired FORMER craft breweries like Eyl**an or 10 Barrel or Hop Valley, all of which are now no longer craft breweries but transparently wholly-owned subsidiaries of the BudMillerCoors conglomerate – and that is NOT a secret. It taints the product mix at our sports stadiums to offer only the smokescreen of fake craft beer and, our beer acumen in WA being as high as it is, fools NOBODY and creates resentment. As one Seahawks fans said to me, while standing in the beer line at CenturyLink Field, “Look at this: 10 Barrel in a ‘craft shack’. Do they think we’re stupid?“
YES, by ALL means, have your gaudy Coors kiosk. I suspect several young lions in your marketing department threw a big party when they sealed the Coors deal and good on ’em. Their hard work paid off and Coors fans get to buy Coors, Bud, Miller, whatever mass-produced light lager they want. But that is NOT who we are in Washington. We are a state which values, prioritizes, and patronizes Small Businesses and while our best breweries are, yes, individually too small to keep you supplied with one certain beer on a daily basis, rotating those brands in and out, spreading your business around, absolutely CAN keep your taps supplied. And to do that would show REAL support for our state’s breweries – and wineries and distilleries! – and helps you brand yourself as OUR team, helps generate pride in involvement in the team’s future, and makes a STRONG statement about the difference between our local culture and attitudes and those of every other franchise in the NHL. AND, no less importantly, puts your money where your mouths are about helping local businesses to survive in the hardest economic disaster any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. Being offered an opportunity to sell Climate Pledge Arena ten to twenty kegs a year MAY literally be the difference between that brewery staying in business and shuttering its doors. Anyone who thinks that is alarmist hyperbole…has not been paying attention.
PLEASE, DO NOT succumb to the forces of corporate exclusion and turn our new team and building into Just Another Sports Arena. You have not presented yourselves that way in ANY other aspect of your business. You have made inclusion a REAL priority and a Statement, having already hired more women in the hockey and organizational side of the Kraken than any other team in the NHL. You have the league’s first African-American Voice on your broadcasts. You have Ron Francis as your GM. You have EASILY the coolest name in the league – Can you even imagine ANY other team wearing this name? – and already TWO of the coolest logos. You have the greenest arena in professional sports. You have CHOSEN to throw out the old paradigm and make the Kraken something new and BETTER…and the products you present in Washington’s newest arena, those brands which become identified with the Seattle Kraken and become Part of The Story, are NO less important. Making availability of your home state’s BOOMING small producer beverages and food products(!) a genuine priority is the next logical step in EARNING our loyalty, respect, and affection for our new team.
You show a TON of evidence of having hired and trusted some of the best sports and hockey and marketing and managerial minds in American sports. USE THEM. And realize this team’s MASSIVE potential and even more massive fan base.
Winning absolutely is the key to the success but that’s not guaranteed nor is is possible to engineer. Loyalty, support, involvement, affection – those are the things, that is the relationship that allows teams to survive the times when winning isn’t happening.
I hope you’ll think about this. Hell, I hope you’ve already thought of all this and have a Plan in place. I don’t need to be the smart guy in the room. I DO need to be that guy sitting in his seat, a yelling his head off for the Kraken, sipping a great Washington indie beer that I didn’t have to smuggle in.”