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How Beer Helped Me Promote My Pet Business

It involved a partnership with a local brewery!

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AT ANIMAL CONNECTION, WE look for promotion partners that do more than sponsor events. Our annual Dog Fest is co-sponsored by non-profits and pet-related businesses, and has grown to an event that in 2019 attracted more than 3,500 attendees. For the last three years during this event, we partnered with Three Notch’d Brewery, an anchor tenant in our retail center, and collaborated Big Dawg Blonde Ale, a beer aptly named after my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who inspired my business, and yours truly, a lover of microbrews. The brewery offered Big Dawg in their pub, promoted my business on their social media and donated a portion of the proceeds from every pint sold to pets in need.

Fast forward to 2020 and covid guidelines… no gatherings with more than 50 people… Dog Fest and my new location’s grand-opening celebration in question… Three Notch’d Brewery came to our rescue! They brew small batches of beers in creatively designed cans for causes and events, and Big Dawg Blonde Ale was the perfect fit for their program!

It’s been a great partnership in product production and in business teams working together. We were a part of the brewing process, from measuring the grains, filling the vats, tasting the first pour and participating in the actual canning process. Our design teams worked together and created brand identity that truly captured our forward-thinking vibe. The Big Dawg Blonde Ale was sold at the brewery store and available at my store for tastings. Our promotion enjoyed increased longevity because the brewery served the Big Dawg at its “Pups and Pints” happy hours outdoors through the fall months.

Are you looking to create a successful partnership that’s unique and community minded. Here are four things to keep in mind:

1. Choose a business or a product that is something you can get behind.

It doesn’t have to be pet related; it just has to be a product you enjoy using and talking about. For me, a tasty fall microbrew fit the bill. And it honoring the dog who inspired me to open my store was an added bonus.

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2. Look for a partner with a strong social media presence.

Work with their advertising team and cross-promote both businesses during all phases of the process. We took photos and video footage every time we visited the brewery during the process. The media was featured on our weekly live Facebook and Instagram show, “What’s Barking Local.” The total reach for our update posts was more than 350,000 viewers per week.

3. Unique cross promotions gain attention for your business and increase sales.

Do you know any other pet retailers who have their own beer named after their dog? My customers love this, media coverage has been great, and even people who don’t have pets are coming to our store to buy things for their friends and family.

4. Invite your pet community to become involved in your promotion.

Previous recipients of proceeds from Big Dawg Blonde Ale sales have been both large and small pet rescue groups. They were thrilled to talk about our fundraising! This year, we are funding our pet community fund, which provides free pet food to anyone who needs help during tough economic times.

Pattie Zeller is the owner and pack leader of the multi-award winning natural pet store, Animal Connection, in Charlottesville, VA. She is the host of "What's Barking Local," a weekly live show on Facebook and ITunes.

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