20 June 2024

‘Greene light’ for Blue Light Weekend!

by Sam Hawcroft

The organisers of Withernsea’s Blue Light Weekend have announced a major sponsorship deal with Greene King Brewery – meaning the event will be as big as originally planned after fears that a funding shortfall would force them to scale back.

The five-figure investment by the leading national pubco and brewer has helped secure the future of the annual August festival, which celebrates and raises money for local emergency and life-saving services, and it will ensure that this year’s Tier 2 air show – among the largest in the North of England – will go ahead.

While Greene King will be the sole seller of drinks with stalls along the prom this year – alongside the boating club – both the Blue Light Weekend committee and the brewer are keen to stress that the emphasis is firmly on family fun.

Along with a range of new ales and a specially branded Blue Light Beer, there will be a wealth of non-alcoholic options and more seating. Security will be tight, with people not allowed to take alcohol beyond designated areas, and it will not be sold after 6pm.

After visiting the festival area, Alastair Drew – the brewery’s sales development manager for South and East Yorkshire – was taken aback by its potential.

He said: “It was a lot bigger than what I was expecting, and it seems like a huge opportunity that we can get involved with. We’re delighted that the Blue Light committee have given us exclusivity, and I think that we can add a lot more to the drink side of things than what they had last year – and not just in terms of alcohol, but appropriately priced soft drinks and seating. Everything that’s been fed back from last year, we can address that a lot better.”

Among the fun attractions will be a Dennis fire engine and a Jeep converted into bars – but Greene King is not just coming to sell beer, it wants to be a key part of the event, said Blue Light Weekend co-director Andy Medcalf.

He said: “They were very impressed by our vision, having seen videos and pictures from last year – and they want to commit to us for the long term, not just a one-off. They’re going to be providing medals for the swims and a trophy for the raft race, and they will be getting involved in the colour run as well.”

The deal is, in principle, a five-year partnership that will be reviewed by both the event organisers and Greene King after this year. But Andy and Alastair stressed that this was not a “takeover” of the festival – the branding will be prominent, but not dominant.

Andy added: “It’s about brand awareness and publicity for Greene King. Our part of the bargain is that we are providing the stage, putting the event on, and bringing people in. They’ve got some marketing they want to do, but they’re not heavy on it. It won’t be plastered everywhere.

“A lot of the detail is still being firmed up but, for instance, there’ll be dual-branded souvenir polycarbonate cups, which will ensure people’s health and safety as well as make the festival more sustainable by moving away from single-use plastics. And Greene King will be looking to make a contribution to the Blue Light Weekend through sales of these cups.”

Alastair added: “With us having exclusive rights, whether it’s selling soft drinks or beers, we don’t feel like we need to do much more than that because we’ve got that collective audience along the prom. So any subtle messaging, brand flashing, anything like that is just an add-on. We feel like we’ve already got enough preference to warrant the money we’re putting in.

“We know we are in the hands of gods with the weather and other factors, so we hope everything goes well in August. We want a long-term partnership – we’ve talked about doing it for the next five years or so. This is possibly going to be the biggest thing we do this year. We don’t currently do much in the North of England, so this is super-exciting for us.”

While Greene King’s investment is significant and has prevented the Blue Light Weekend from having to be scaled back, it only covers about half of the total annual budget because the costs involved – especially in relation to the air show – are so high, Andy said.

“We’re delighted to have a major sponsor that sees our vision. They understand the objectives, and they understand the background. They’re not trampling all over it. They’re coming in and they’re working with us.

“But this doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep raising funds or stop looking for other sponsors – we need as many as possible on board to be able to stage this event, and any surplus goes towards future years. Then the money raised on the day through our numerous bucket collections and fundraisers goes directly to local emergency and life-saving services.”

The sponsorship deal comes after a successful beer festival at the Plough Inn in Hollym last month, which was supported by Greene King. A spokesman said the brewer had supported the pub from “day one,” helping them refurbish the cellar and providing valuable technical services.

This pairing also led to Greene King’s sponsorship of a new kit for Withernsea RUFC, which Alastair presented to the team ahead of a friendly match at the neighbouring Fouracre Park on the Sunday of the beer festival.

For the latest information on the Blue Light Weekend event programme, visit bluelightweekend.com.