DRINKS giant Diageo has apologised to independent Scottish brewery BrewDog after refusing to hand over the award for Bar Operator of the Year 2012.
BrewDog, the Fraserburgh-based company which has gained a reputation for its handcrafted ales was voted top bar operator at a ceremony in Glasgow on Sunday.
However, executives from Diageo refused to hand over the award – and tried to give it to another operator – even though BrewDog’s name was written on the trophy.
It was alleged that executives from the drinks giant pressured the British Institute of Innkeeping to withhold the award, saying the company would withdraw its sponsorship if BrewDog won.
But BrewDog, which is well known for its mastery of social networking, unleashed a Twitter storm, asking followers to tweet messages of support using the hashtag “#andthewinnerisnot”.
Yesterday Diageo – which owns Smirnoff, Johnny Walker and Guinness among other well known brands – issued an unreserved apology for the debacle.
A spokesman said: “There was a serious misjudgment by Diageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening in relation to the Bar Operator of the Year Award, which does not reflect in any way Diageo’s corporate values and behaviour.
“We would like to apologise unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgment and we will be contacting both organisations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident.”
James Watt, co-founder at BrewDog, said: “Diageo’s actions are shameless, misguided and embarrassing. This is clear evidence of the dirty tricks used by global corporations to derail young competitors they fear.
“We are often criticised for suggesting big businesses do not play fair in this industry, yet this is another clear indication that some organisations feel they are big enough to be kingmakers, controllers of everyone else’s fate. As a sponsor, Diageo had no right to interfere with the independent judging process, but they abused their position to make a small and stupid statement like this one.”
He said Kenny Mitchell of the British Institute of Innkeeping had told him: “We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner.”
Craig McGill, social media PR specialist from Contently Managed, said the backlash was an “absolute howler” for Diageo
He said: “BrewDog are well known for blogging and setting up a wee row where they can. Very few of these things can be kept secret now.
“From a social media and PR point of view, this is an absolute howler for Diageo. There’s no level where this doesn’t just look mean and spiteful.
“And it will be doubly mean and spiteful if Diageo follow through on the threat of pulling sponsorship of the event.”
No-one from the British Institute of Innkeeping was available to comment last night.