Sponsor can we morally seek sponsorship from a brewery

A student member of the team has a link to a local brewery they also handle soda and energy drinks. I’m mixed on the idea and image of them as a sponsor. What’s your opinions?

Many teams are sponsored by defense contractors who make weapons and other items that aren’t aren’t just pretty wall decorations.

If a local brewery/beverage company would like to financially donate to your team and invest in your students go for it.

For me, I would raise questions if they are doing something that is illegal or their name/branding has language/symbols that would be offensive.

I would check with your school board. They may not be happy with the sponsorship. Don’t be surprised if some parents object.

This would be my thought process:

STEP 1: Does your youth organization have something to say about it?
STEP 2: Is the brewery okay with a non-beer corporate name or one of the soda brands as the sponsor?
STEP 3: If the answers are no and yes respectively, accept it and send a thank you card.

A team about 20 minutes from where I lived in South Carolina got sponsored by FN Manufacturing–the company that makes military-issue assault rifles.

Great points to ponder. Thanks for the fast responses

One other addition: this kind of stuff shouldn’t be new to an alcohol company. It’s a settled issue in NASCAR, where there are drivers that are under 21. (Those drivers also run “21 Means 21” contingency sponsor stickers in lieu of the usual Coors Light pole sticker.)

One thing that could help (assuming your inclination is to take them as a sponsor) is to separate two elements, accepting money from a brewery and how the team advertises the sponsor, as is typical in FRC.

Yes, there are some folks that would be strongly opposed to any interaction due to personal beliefs surrounding alcohol. However, breweries and other food production facilities have increasingly large amount of process control, automation, etc… and they employ many STEM professionals.

However, as Billfred alluded to, I would not want to be seen as advertising alcohol at a high school robotics competition, whether directly or indirectly. You might be able to use this to your advantage to strike a middle ground. “We would love to have XYZ Brewery as a sponsor, but are unable to advertise alcohol or use the word brewery on our promotional material, would it be ok if we advertise an individual non-alcohol product as thanks for your sponsorship?”

If you strike that deal up front, it might help settle any concerns from folks that hear “brewery sponsorship” and jump to wild imagery of a pallet of beer showing up for Saturday lunches at build day and your team designing a still for SteamWorks. (which in a parallel universe, sounds pretty cool)

Sounds like a good way to attract new mentors.

I think the brewery sponsorship can work great and be good for both your team and the brewery. But it is important that the Brewery understands what they can expect from you as a reciprocal relationship.

It looks like most of this has been covered, but to wrap it all up in one list:

  • Clear it through your parent organization(s) [school, 4-H, whatever] before going any farther.
  • Work with the candidate sponsor to develop a message/plan which does not give the impression of promoting underage drinking. Put this agreement in writing.
  • Be open with mentors and other stakeholders BEFORE signing the deal - this is one of those cases where, if a stakeholder has an issue, forgiveness is unlikely. Get permission/buy in.
  • Review the materials as they come in and periodically. Have one of your stakeholders who was leery of the deal in on this. You may even want to start doing this with your other sponsors.
  • Thank them!

In taking a look, I found (according to http://www.oai.org/firstbuckeye/teams.html), that team 870 is/was sponsored by a brewery (caveat, I have no relation to this team, and the brewery is not on their current sponsor list as shown on TBA).

Team 4293 lists Lone Tree Brewing Company as a $2500-$4999 sponsor.

So, there are a few teams which are sponsored by breweries.

It looks like it was a charitable donation rather than a sponsorship and that it was a one off thing.

As a school team, we cannot accept bars, alcohol, tobacco or gun dealers as sponsors.

Also casinos.

What about defense contractors?

Sounds like a slippery slope, a big defense company who build cruise missiles have built built weaponary that have caused the deaths of a lot more innocent people than your average gunshop.

Or what about sub-contractors who build parts like Rolls-Royce building engines for fighter jets.

Or what even about the USAF…

The gun dealers thing sounds a bit weird, but makes reasonable sense.

A successful brewer will use science, technology and math to run efficiently and continue their success. I would see this as a means to inspire students on the team. Is that not what FIRST is all about?
I would listen to and do appreciate the input here, but for those who oppose this sponsor, put up or… Fundraising is difficult, to have a connection to a sponsor who is willing and values the program, why find ways to discourage them.

Many companies that produce adult beverages fund their charitable donations through foundations. The Adolph Coors Foundation comes to mind immediately as one of the better known examples. I would inquire if the brewery in question has a foundation set up for donations.

Local micro-breweries won’t have this. Some possible alternatives though:

-Drop “Brewery” or “Distillery” after the name and just provide the name of the company on shirts or whatever.
-Ask to put the name of the CEO or founder as the sponsor instead of the brewery… for smaller shops this is often good enough given where the money is coming from.
-Ask them if they don’t mind putting “21 means 21” or “don’t drink and drive” or “drink responsibly” or something like that along with their sponsorship… gives you something for outreach and safety while also netting a sponsor.

Personally, I think this is a brilliant idea and I think we may have some new sponsors soon. :slight_smile:

Ignoring the affects of alcohol for a minute, there is so much that you can use with a brewer to “sell” it to your school, parents, and other stakeholders. Bulk manufacturing technology, some seriously cool chemistry and biology, the affects of different transportation and distribution systems. If it were me, I would start by describing the company in those terms - “There’s a company that wants to sponsor the team. They’re involved with bulk manufacturing, chemistry, distribution, transportation.” Then at the end, once people are saying “wow, sounds like a great fit!”, “oh yeah, it’s such-and-such brewery”.

Kind of bugs me that in this society, parents and schools will object to sponsorship by a brewery but not by weapons manufacturers. Personally, I believe the more sponsorship, the merrier. Just like weapons manufacturers don’t encourage FIRST students to commit violence, brewery sponsors shouldn’t encourage FIRST students to drink, etc.

I would ask relevant authorities, parents, etc. and then if you do get the sponsorship, try and downplay the brewery side of things. Just list them as a beverage company, partial company name, their side charity name, etc.