SBJ/Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2011/Facilities

Dispenser offers faster pours, sponsorship opportunities

A unique beer dispenser that pours a lightning-quick draft and comes with a built-in sponsorship opportunity is starting to flow more freely into major league facilities.

Bottoms Up, the name of the system, is the idea of Josh Springer, a 28-year-old Washington state entrepreneur. Springer developed the dispenser in March 2008, formed his own company called GrinOn Industries and signed a deal with a local manufacturer to produce the system.

The Bottoms Up system uses
magnets at the bottom of cups that can feature corporate logos.
The technology works like this: A special cup with a hole in the bottom filled by a circular magnet is placed on top of the dispenser. The magnet flips up while the cup is filled with beer. The weight of the liquid forces the magnet back down to seal the cup, where it attaches to a metal rim at the cup’s base. The entire process takes two seconds.
For teams, facilities and concessionaires, that means faster service, plus less foam and spillage, providing higher yields.

GrinOn has placed the portable dispensers in about 20 arenas and stadiums, including the 10 NFL facilities where Centerplate operates concessions. The dispensers can cost up to $5,000, and the cups are priced about 45 cents, much higher than the 10-cent cost of regular cups. But the magnets, which pop off the cup and can go home with fans as souvenirs, can also help seal the deal for facilities by generating sponsorship revenue to offset the higher costs.

Springer’s product got a big boost after Anheuser-Busch signed a one-year deal with GrinOn for the exclusive rights to put its beer brands on the magnets in 2011. For vendors that have partnerships with the brewer, the sponsorship effectively reduces the Bottoms Up cup cost to 12 to 14 cents.

Anheuser-Busch officials did not return e-mails for comment.

Last week, Aramark began using its Bud Light-branded dispenser on the main concourse during a Flyers game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. It poured 15 near-perfect beers in one minute compared with six to eight drafts on a regular beer system, with less margin for error than other quick-pour dispensers on the market, said Sean Hennessey, Aramark’s on-site general manager.

In Philly and St. Louis, where Delaware North Sportservice tested Bottoms Up at Busch Stadium during the second half of the 2010 MLB season, Anheuser-Busch provided the beer dispensers free in return for brand exposure. Sportservice put the Cardinals’ logo on the magnet, turning it into a collectible, said Dan Fetcho, the vendor’s general manager. He charged $8.75 for a 16-ounce Bottoms Up cup, the same price for a 20-ounce beer served in a regular cup. Officials plan to roll it out again this coming season. “It’s a cool invention. … Fans enjoyed the look and the buzz it created,” Fetcho said. “It became a destination point.”

Two concessionaires that helped Springer get his product into sports facilities the past two years are firm believers in the system and worked on their own deals to brand the cup magnets to offset their costs.

Before the Anheuser-Busch deal was signed, Joe Carter, in-house food and beverage director at UNLV, signed magnet deals with Coors and Tecate Light for National Finals Rodeo and the Professional Bull Riders tour at Thomas & Mack Center, in addition to team-branded magnets for football games at Sam Boyd Stadium. Carter sells a 20-ounce “fast-pour” beer for $7, one dollar more than the same-size regular beer, and has seen those magnets adorn home refrigerators. “It enhances peoples’ experience,” he said.

In Jacksonville, Ovations Food Services and the Jaguars developed a four-player series of collectible cup magnets at three Bottoms Up dispensers spread over two locations at EverBank Field.

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