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NBWA Continues Successful Streak Due to Partnership with Caesars and Loyal Attendees

National Beer Wholesalers

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) held its 80th Annual Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas Oct. 8-11, 2017, one week after the Route 91 Harvest music festival tragedy. As you can imagine, the anxiety level for visitors was high, but the NBWA had prior experience in handling fears after a tragedy.

“As we all woke up on that Monday morning prior to our convention opening the following week, we saw the news and we were heartbroken,” says Patti Rouzie, NBWA’s vice president of membership and meetings. “Immediately, we knew we needed to communicate with our members about arrangements made to ensure their ongoing security and to balance that with any concerns about their convenience.”

Realizing Las Vegas has some of the most highly trained security and law enforcement professionals in the country, Rouzie says the association knew safety in the hotel and the city was the highest priority. They also increased security for an outside event at the Caesars pool.

“NBWA was in Las Vegas on Sept. 11,” Rouzie says. “We as a group came together to weather that tragedy, and we were prepared to come together again to celebrate the beer distribution industry and to support a city that has been our partner for over 20 years.”

A Beer Market

The beer business has experienced a surge in growth over the last five years, thanks to an interest in craft breweries. According to the Brewers Association, “craft brewer sales continued to grow at a rate of 6.2 percent by volume, reaching 12.3 percent of the U.S. beer market by volume” in 2016.

An economic study conducted by the NBWA and the Beer Institute found that “the U.S. beer industry—from brewers and beer importers to beer distributors and retailers—generates more than 2.23 million jobs, providing US$103.3 billion in wages and benefits,” with beer distributors providing 135,000 of those jobs.

“Beer distribution is intimately tied to the fabric of the American economy, evidenced by the multiplier processes that connect beer distribution to the other parts of the economy,” University of Delaware professors William R. Latham and Kenneth A. Lewis wrote in the NBWA’s 2015 economic report, America’s Beer Distributors: Fueling Jobs, Generating Economic Growth & Delivering Value to Local Communities. “Personal services sectors are most impacted by beer distribution. Beer distribution also significantly impacts food services and drinking places, real estate, credit cards, pension funds and retail stores.”

Beer distributors are also good community citizens.

“They support numerous community events, a wide array of charitable activities and many activities promoting local economic development,” Latham and Lewis wrote. “In addition, they play a role in efforts to eliminate drunk driving, alcohol abuse and underage drinking through alcohol awareness, server training and education initiatives in schools and the media.”

A Loyal Base

Beer distributors across the U.S. attend NBWA’s biennial convention and trade show, along with association members and industry suppliers. The 80th edition brought 4,000 delegates and 300 exhibiting companies. Attendees had the opportunity to sample more than 500 beer labels, and the trade show held at Caesars Palace maximized the function space.

“NBWA has partnered with Caesars Palace since 2009 and prior to that with Bally’s and Paris right across the street,” Rouzie says. “The staff at Caesars is second to none. They understand what helps to ensure NBWA’s event is a success, what it takes to create a successful meeting environment and how to keep beer ice cold, not just for a night, but for an entire convention, which in our industry is essential!”

York, Penn.-based Precision Distribution Consulting Inc. is an exhibitor that has attended the NBWA conference and trade show for 12 years. According to Greg Ellis, the organization’s president, the opportunity for business development and networking are reasons for its continued attendance.

“However, the level of organization at the event, the culture of the NBWA and the overall environment are the real reasons we will continue to participate,” he says.

Ellis points out the main differentiator for the event is the close alignment of the interests of the NBWA team and the wholesalers who attend.

“This alignment of interests is both rare and readily apparent throughout the event,” he says. “If we were to participate in one event a year, it would be the NBWA convention.”

For Tampa, Fla.-based Fintech, attending NBWA is a cornerstone of its marketing communications to the beer wholesaler community, making it the one event of the year that gives the company the greatest exposure to its potential and existing customer base.

“Whether it is the introduction of a new product or service, education regarding Fintech or reinforcing our current business proposition, the convention is the cost-effective way to get this message out to the beer community,” says Jim Kallies, Fintech’s director of distributor initiatives. “NBWA provides the perfect environment to interact with all participants of the beer industry in both a business and social setting. At the convention you get meaningful interactions with your customers, competitors and colleagues in a social, fun way.”

Fintech has attended the NBWA conference and trade show for 18 years and utilizes the relationships it develops at the event throughout the year to form strategic partnerships to grow its business.

“The convention also serves as a tremendous source of information of the current state of the beer industry, including the challenges and opportunities ahead in order to reinforce we are providing the products and service our customers need and want,” Kallies says.

Along with loyal and passionate attendees, Rouzie says that a caring Caesars staff helped make the event a success, too.

“In addition to the staff, Caesars continues to improve their hotel product,” she says. “There is always something new happening. This year, attendees were happy to check into recently renovated rooms. There is always a new restaurant to try, a new opportunity for a cold beer and entertainment for attendees to enjoy. They appreciate the importance of meeting business and work to make sure our event goals are met.”

A Picture-worthy Event

Attendees chose from 22 individual educational seminars over the three days at the NBWA conference and trade show, along with a general session that included Fox News’ Dana Perino and former sportscaster Brent Musburger. Attendees also heard from the CEOs of Heineken USA and Anheuser-Busch, as well as association leaders.

“Fintech’s success is also in part due to the knowledge we have gained from the convention,” Kallies says. “NBWA does an excellent job providing speakers who accurately summarize how the industry is performing and the forces affecting the results. This information, combined with direct customer feedback that takes place, is the groundwork for our strategic planning for the year and reinforces if Fintech’s current plan is working and we are meeting the needs of our customers.”

Since the NBWA was celebrating 80 years, there was a 1980s themed party to kick off the event. There were also satellite functions at Caesars Palace and in other locations on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Las Vegas is a perfect location for a convention,” Rouzie says. “The city is full of excitement, entertainment, great dining and hotels that allow thousands of attendees to come together under one roof. Caesars Palace guest rooms are first class, the meeting space allows for a general session of 2,000 and trade show of 300 companies and a pool that can host a party for 4,000, all situated right in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip.”

One of the successful things NBWA did at the event was expand its social media presence.

“This year, we instituted an Instagram contest, which encouraged attendees to post creative pictures during the show and use the #followyourbeer and #NBWAVegas hashtags,” Rouzie says. “In addition, we had an Instagram booth to help attendees create their own Instagram accounts. We also included a photo booth, which allowed attendees to immediately post their pictures to Facebook.”

Instagram and Twitter walls showcased individual posts, and because Las Vegas and Caesars Palace offer plenty of photogenic backdrops, Rouzie says that “there were many opportunities for creative posts.”

Coming Together

Rouzie says that returning to Caesars is like visiting a family member.

“NBWA enjoys a long partnership with the hotel and many of the staff,” she says. “Caesars has taken the time to understand what helps make NBWA’s annual convention and trade show a success, what keeps our members happy and offers an opportunity to put together a successful event.”

Rouzie’s favorite thing about planning the convention and trade show is watching it all come together.

“NBWA staff works hard to ensure this event is a success, and I love seeing NBWA members connect and enjoy the results of the hard work and planning,” she says. “I love being able to provide an opportunity for them to come together, learn something new, enjoy special entertainment and, most importantly, celebrate the beer distribution industry.”

About the Author

Jason Hensel
Jason Hensel

Jason Hensel is a freelance writer and former editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes improv comedy, bacon and books.