Wrapping your cans or bottles in a fresh coat of green, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day? That’s a pretty standard marketing ploy for any craft brewery or cider producer. Partnering with an online store to conduct what is more or less a Bitcoin lottery? Well, that’s a considerably more unorthodox marketing strategy for one of the country’s largest craft brewers. And yet, that’s exactly what Boston Beer Co., the makers of Angry Orchard hard cider, have unveiled with their “Green-17 Pack” promotion with the online store GiveThemBeer.Com. It’s a promotion with complicated legality in quite a few states, which makes us especially surprised that Boston Beer Co. would have signed on in the first place.
At its core, Angry Orchard is partnering with GiveThemBeer.Com to sell limited time 17-packs of Angry Orchard Green Apple hard cider for St. Patrick’s Day here. The cider of course doesn’t normally come in quantities of 17, and here it comes in “novel, collectible packaging.” The big selling point, though, is the chance to be a monetary winner—17 of the packs that are sold will contain a “golden ticket” that is redeemable for $500 in Bitcoin via Cash App.
This is where things get tricky, though, starting with the price of the 17 pack via GiveThemBeer. These 17-packs are priced at $39.95, which one can immediately deduce does not represent the normal price of 17 bottles of Angry Orchard hard cider. In fact, the typical price for Angry Orchard 12 packs is around $17-20, and 24 packs can be found for less than $35. That’s about $1.45 per bottle. The St. Patrick’s Day 17-pack, on the other hand, ultimately costs about $2.35 per bottle. The implication is clear: What you’re really paying for is admission to a lottery for Bitcoin. Nobody is going to buy that the increased cost is for that “collectible packaging.”
That leaves us with a questionable Bitcoin lottery, especially considering the next fact: Residents of California, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia are all allowed to buy the 17-packs online, but are not eligible by state law to receive the Bitcoin prize, according to GiveThemBeer’s own FAQ. Nor does the FAQ state or imply that anyone in these states who found a “golden ticket” would receive a different prize of equal value. It can be assumed that they’d just be paying $40 for 17 bottles of cider, without any legal ability to collect their winnings if they won.
There are a lot of elements here that simply leave us scratching our heads. For example, the FAQ also states that there are only 250 of these packs available, meaning that you actually would have a statistically good chance of winning—6.8%, in fact. The same FAQ, however, also notes that “Pending popularity, we may extend product sales for a limited time.” Does that mean there may actually be 500 of these packs, or 1,000?
Moreover, the dollar sales generated by selling merely 250 packs of Angry Orchard for $40 is only $10,000, while the amount of Bitcoin being given away (17 winners, at $500 each) is already $8,500. How is anyone making a profit at this level, once you factor in the cost of the cider itself? Is it all just for press? Weirder still: The fine print rules of the contest seem to suggest that anyone can enter the contest regardless of whether they purchase the 17-pack, simply by filling out a card and physically mailing it to the corporate office of Boston Beer Co. Which is to say, is Boston Beer Co. just giving away Bitcoin right now? Is this a lottery, or a free giveaway? Seriously, it reads the following:
Additional method of entry for eligible participants in accordance with the terms herein: to enter the Promotion without making a purchase, handprint in blue or black ink on a standard 3 × 5-inch card your full name, complete home address including zip code, email address, and telephone number and mail it to Angry Orchard Golden Ticket Promotion Entry Request, One Design Center Place, Suite 850, Boston, MA 02210 to receive one (1) entry into the Promotion.
Suffice to say, this isn’t exactly the St. Patrick’s Day promotion we were expecting. And between “paying extra for cider for a lottery entry” and “paying nothing for a Bitcoin giveaway,” it seems like the choice for most people would be fairly clear.