Wednesday afternoon. I’m up to my elbows in a bucket of sanitizer, and my phone starts buzzing. This is not an atypical scenario for a brewery operator in Nordeast Minneapolis. What is atypical is to be introduced to Karl, a pleasant young man tasked with pitching me with the idea of buying a Vikings corporate ticket package to “entertain and reward my customers.”
It immediately strikes me as comical that the fever for craft beer (and cider) in Minneapolis has the kind of momentum that would land me on a cold-call sheet for the Vikes. So naturally I fire right back: “Well, Karl, that depends on whether or not you want to be one of my customers.”
Alas, Karl informs me that he does not have the kind of corporate clout needed to buy a truckload of hard cider over the telephone. He recovers by kindly expressing his regret for not being able to send over a purchase order. We sign off with all the cordiality expected between two salespeople who know a sale will not be closed.
My economist self spends the rest of the day thinking about this brief exchange. Specifically, I wonder about the economic implications of a largely out-of-state venture adorned in purple and gold extracting resources from local businesses without making a commitment to do business with them. I begin to envision a couple of oddly detailed possible scenarios.
In the first, the Vikes buy a ton of Mich Golden Light from AB InBev. The distributor representing that brand pays a guy a very respectable wage to deliver the kegs, but the majority of the revenue from the sale goes back to the Belgian parent company. Meanwhile AB InBev bites on Karl’s sales pitch and buys some of those $15,000-a-pop premium corporate tickets to reward the guy that dropped off the keg (or more likely his boss). He’ll head to U.S. Bank Stadium, where he will sit on the 50 and drink $9 pints of Golden for the duration of the game. (Knowing the Vikings, the game will more than likely end in a heartbreaking last-minute defeat).
Then, as I begin to imagine the alternative scenario, birds begin to chirp and the sun peeks through the clouds. In this scene, Zygi Wilf et al. commit to supporting a local brewing community that directly employs 2,000 Minnesotans and by many measures about 8,000 more via indirect business activity (including but not limited to the hiring of contractors, suppliers and service providers). Karl’s boss calls in an order for a bunch of cider. We buy more local apples, hire more brewers to make the stuff and hire contractors to expand our facilities.
Dennis the apple grower, John the brewer and Steve the contractor (all real people) have cash to buy stuff in the local economy, including Vikings tickets. We all go out for beers and burgers downtown before a game. We pay sales tax, much of which goes to subsidizing the stadium. We go to a game together and enjoy great craft beer, also at $9 a pint. The Vikes win the Super Bowl. Everyone is happy.
And the next season, Karl calls again to sell a ticket package and I say, “sure thing, but give me something reasonable. After all, I’m not Budweiser.”
Jim Watkins is a lifelong Vikings fan and co-founder of Sociable Cider Werks.