A Look at an Awards Event That Generates Significant Nondues Revenue

The American Distilling Institute’s “Judging of Craft Spirits” event not only pushes its industry toward excellence, but it also brings in a significant chunk of nondues revenue for the association.

The American Distilling Institute (ADI) recently wrapped up its annual Judging of Craft Spirits event, where judges gather to sip, comment on, and rank distilled products from around the world. The event has seen tremendous groups since launch.  In the first year, judges considered 46 products, but this year there were 1,000 products to consider.

As you might imagine, the work to put on such an event is tremendous, but so is the payoff for ADI. For example, this year’s event brought in about $100,000 of net revenue and it’s a great way to promote the industry at-large.

After speaking with its Founder and President Bill Owens, I’m convinced that the success of the event is due in large part to ADI making it valuable for both the distillers who are submitting their products for consideration and for the judges who are ranking the products.

Here’s a closer look at how ADI and everyone else involved in the event benefits:

What’s in it for the judges? This year, the event had 36 judges, and there’s already a waiting list for next year’s class of judges. Why? Because the experience is valuable to the judges. “Once you’re on the inside [as a judge], we take good care of you,” Owens said. “We give you food, lodging, and you meet some really interesting people from all walks of life.”

ADI also pays for the judges’ flights, but more important, the association offers them the chance to taste the world’s array of spirits. “If you’re a gin distiller, you definitely want to taste all the other gins out there,” Owens said.

What’s in it for the distillers? The average cost for submitting a craft spirit for judging

is $300, and Owens said that distillers get a good bang for their buck. First of all, there’s about 40 categories, so there’s a good chance of winning a medal, and ADI judges distillers that are similar. For instance, “co-packers,” which have someone else making and bottling the product, are judged against other co-packers.

In addition, every applicant receives positive feedback on their spirits, and the winners get medals, as well as recognition online and in ADI’s magazine. Getting to hang medals around a bottle in your tasting room gives a distiller “a good feeling,” Owens said, and it’s great marketing, too. Plus, the top winners get invited to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, where they’ll get to feature their product and give out samples.

What’s in it for ADI? There’s no doubt that the Judging of Craft Spirits is a lot of work, but it’s one way that ADI delivers on its mission “to promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling.” And, as previously mentioned, it brings in a good chunk of revenue—something lots of associations hope to achieve with award programs—even though it costs a lot to host it. “It generates about 300,000 in cashflow, and it costs about $200,000, so we net about $100,000,” Owens said.

How does your association bring in revenue with its own award show, while also making it a real value to your members or industry at-large? Please leave your comments below.

(American Distilling Institute photo)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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