Brewdog offer a gold can ‘apology’ – but it’s a kick in the teeth for the winners

This blog post was published at 8.30am on 20 October – read to the end to find out what happened in the following 2 hours

Do you remember the controversy about the Brewdog gold cans earlier this year? 

Brewdog gave away several gold beer cans worth £15,000 in competitions between November 2020 and June 2021. The tweet launching the competition claimed the can was solid gold. 

The original gold can winners received their £15k cans at the end of 2020. The promotion was repeated in 2021, and I ​​was one of the second batch of gold can winners in April. I was incredibly excited by my prize – the biggest prize I’ve won since I started comping (or so I thought….).

Gold Brewdog can

But in June 2021 the press published a story about lucky winner Mark Craig – who discovered the £15,000 cans were actually gold plated brass, valued at just £500 by a jeweller. 

I’m guessing across the various promotions (the Wonka style ‘golden can’ in Brewdog orders, the receipt upload promotion across 9 different stores, and the Lost Lager Instagram photo competition) there are around 25 winners of the gold plated £500 cans. I imagine there was also a pretty decent uplift in sales as a result of all the press and in-store promotional material.

ASA rule against Brewdog

Today (October 20) the ASA ruling against Brewdog has finally been published, concluding that the advertising and promotion breached the CAP Code rules on misleading advertising, substantiation and promotional marketing.

What’s frustrating is that the ASA adjudication and interviews with Brewdog focus on the ‘win a solid gold can’ advertising. I never expected the can to be full, solid gold – that would be crazy. But I did expect the hollow can I received to be made of gold, rather than gold plated brass. Its weight is only 265 grams, and at the current price of gold (£41 per gram) that would be worth £11,000, which fits with the £15,000 valuation. Yes, I probably should have taken the can to a jewellers to get it checked, but as I had no intention of selling it, I simply placed it on a shelf to admire! To be honest, I was more amused than annoyed about the ‘gold plated’ reveal – that is, until I saw what Brewdog had planned for their next promotion…

‘The sequel: a gold plated apology’

Yes, the real kick in the teeth for the original can winners is that Brewdog have launched an ‘apology’ promotion today, giving ten winners a diamond-encrusted gold plated can worth £25,000 (or a £25,000 cash equivalent) plus a £5,000 donation to a charity of their choice. 

Brewdog have tweeted about their new promotion, but of course there are no terms and conditions linked in the tweet or on the competition landing page (another CAP Code breach), so it looks to be their usual poor standard of communications.

I appreciate this is a classic Brewdog stunt, to turn bad press into a marketing gimmick – but the sheer amount of money spent on this new promotion leaves a sour taste. How can Brewdog justify giving away £300,000 of prizes when the original gold can winners were offered no money at all to compensate for their disappointment?

After several emails to Brewdog in July, I was finally offered a year’s subscription to their beer club as an apology. Of course, I’m one of the luckier winners and have also won £10,000 of shares in Brewdog, but six months after winning, I’ve yet to have any official confirmation of this prize. In the meantime, offering even £1,000 (or a £1,000 donation to charity on my behalf) would have been a nice apologetic gesture and not much of a chunk out of the seemingly bottomless Brewdog marketing budget. 

Brewdog of course are famous for their ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude. Sometimes this works in their favour, particularly with some of their excellent marketing stunts. But in June this year when 61 former staff came together to accuse the company of fostering a ‘culture of fear’, they stated that ‘the feeling of disappointment, resentment and sadness is shared by hundreds of people’ who had worked at Brewdog. Boss James Watt made an apology to the staff and promised things would improve – but I’m left wondering if anything has really changed? 

It’s not too late for Brewdog to make this right. But they won’t.

Update – I was wrong. Brewdog DID make it right

At 9.37am this morning I received a telephone call from Lauren at Brewdog. She explained that James Watt had made the decision to offer to buy back the gold cans from the original winners for £15,000 each, from his own salary – James also tweeted this news at 9.38am. The winners were emailed at 10.26am:

While we still stand by our £15,000 valuation due to the exclusivity and rarity of the item, we’re offering to buy the can back off you. That means you can exchange your can for £15,000 which we’ll deposit into your bank.

Ten minutes later, my £10,000 shares allocation (397 shares) was finally confirmed and added to my Brewdog account too.

I’m delighted for all the winners who have felt so disappointed at the whole debacle.

Although this should have been done back in June, I’m grateful that Brewdog have finally done the right thing. Although I don’t think I’ll bother entering their new prize promotion!

10 Responses

  1. Chris Hunt says:

    So pleased for you, this turned out well in the end. BUT, I do not like anything about it. Talk about a Can of worms – pun intended! What a good chapter for your new book though. So many lessons learnt here.

  2. Rebecca Beesley says:

    So glad this has worked out well in the end for you and the other winners. So often it is when things go wrong that companies have a chance to really shine and put things right but often they don’t. One of the things I’ve often found strange is when ASA makes rulings against a company, nothing seems to happen for the winner to put it right – which always seemed a bit of a loophole for the person who was “wronged” in the first place – for example in my early comping days, I remember seeing something about a holiday win that the ASA ruled the winner was right and not the company but they didn’t seem to have to do anything to put it right. Thank you for always speaking up about these things to help companies get it right in the first place.

    • Di says:

      The ASA don’t have any power beyond ruling either in favour of the promoter, or against the promoter. They simply explain what was done incorrectly and what needs to be done next time round. Unfortunately offering the promoter advice on how to make things right with the complainant (who is usually a disgruntled entrant or winner) just isn’t part of their job – it’s frustrating, and that’s why linking to an ASA ruling in your own communications (either private or public) to the promoter is usually the best bet.

  3. Helena says:

    I am please that it has worked out for you still ended being a brilliant prize. It just shows the more who say there not satisfied things can get sorted.

  4. Sue Pigg says:

    I see that Brewdog have now placed T&C’s on twitter – one winner drawn every day until 10 prizes claimed (by 30th). The original winners should definitely have had some form of compensation given to them (this was one that I didn’t enter !!)

  5. kazzy bee says:

    I bought two crates of Brewdog from Majestic to enter this competition. I didnt see any winners list anywhere and then Morrisons where my sister had bought her cans mysteriously disappeared. It all felt pretty shoddy. It is such a shame as their beer is blinking lovely and the ethos of the company also (appeared) to be really thoughtful and ethical. Brewdog have just turned out to be such a big disappointment! Shame on Brewdog for duping us all and particularly for not rectifying their poor competition with the lucky winners.

    • Di says:

      Their promotions aren’t CAP compliant at all – I know they don’t really care about the ASA but it’s really in their own interest to ensure the T&Cs are accessible, clear and thorough. If they’d done that originally, they wouldn’t be in this pickle!

  6. Can Winner says:

    Brewdogs response is very much try and win the public back and screw the previous winners. As a winner myself I fully agree with Di and never expected a full solid gold can but i did expect a hollow can made from gold. I’ve been totally mislead and so far as yet to recieve most of my prize

    • Di says:

      Good news – you should have received an email from Brewdog offering to exchange your can for £15,000! They’ve had a belated change of heart.

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