DVD Review #3 & A History of Nations

As we continue our series on flair bartending DVD reviews, we thought it would be appropriate to feature the 2008 Nations International Flair Challenge this month. After all, the 2010 Nations is scheduled for August 15-17, at the newly opened Rock & Ritas flair bar inside Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Because we’re always encouraging fans to attend a live competition, this is definitely one to put on your calendar. July and August flights to Las Vegas (within the U.S.) are generally less expensive…and with it being held at Circus Circus, hotel rooms should also be affordable. You’ll likely see some of the most talented flair bartenders in the world at this competition, because of the lineup now working at Rock & Rita’s. To stay up to speed on which competitors will be there (and by division), keep checking the Nations official website.

Mark your calendars and get the plane tickets and hotels booked…it’s looking to be a fantastic competition! We can’t wait to see you there!

A History of Nations
Nations is an internationally known event, organized and run by Jim Allison, President of the Flair Bartending Association (FBA) and Ken Hall, President and Owner of High Spirits Enterprises. Started in 2003 as a smaller budget event at Las Vegas’ Ice House Lounge, this flair bartending competition offers a variety of qualifying rounds such as exhibition flair, speed and pour-testing rounds. This, however, is a unique competition that offers competitors the chance to really showcase their flair bartending skills. Three divisions (or levels) are offered to bartenders, consisting of Amateur (those just getting started), Advanced (those with a few competitions under their belt) and Professional (world famous bartenders).

“The long term goal was to always make Nations an international powerhouse competition focusing only on raw flair,” said Allison.  “This is in contrast to other events like Legends, Quest, and Blue Blazer which all focus on more aspects of bartending than just flair.”

2005 – Nations took place at the trendy Cro-Bar in South Beach Miami. Top bartenders from around the world showed up for the second year of this competition, and had a serious throw down of skill. Christian Delpech took home the grand championship.

2006 – Nations moved back to Las Vegas, but this time at the Club Rio to a capacity crowd.  At this point, Nations became famous for upsets where the underdogs began to step it up and did the unthinkable to become World Champions…Rodrigo Cao was the first to shock the world by achieving this status with his amazing finals round.

2007 – the then unpolished Vladymyr Buryanov came to the main stage on finals night and threw down just enough to topple the unbeatable Christian Delpech.

2008 – the talent showcased at this year’s event was so great that several world champions literally did not make the finals, and yet again another new comer stormed the stage…

Review of The 2008 Nations DVD
Which brings us to our review of the 2008 Nations competition DVD. To sum it up quickly, Poland ruled this particular competition, as they’d been doing that same year in the European scene. Tomek Malek was definitely our favorite round on this video…and the judges agreed. We also enjoyed Justin Keane, who went on to take 3rd overall.

Nations Summary (on back of DVD):
Nine of the greatest flair bartenders on the planet went head to head for over $40,000 in cash and prizes in, what turned out to be one of the most incredible Grand Finals the flair bartending world has ever seen! Round after round, competitors blew the roof off the Ovation Showroom inside the Green Valley Ranch Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Strap in for the most exciting flair DVD ever!!!

Other rounds to watch at the Professional level were Danilo Oribe, Rodrigo Cao, Tom Dyer and Rodrigo Delpech. The lighting on this DVD is awesome, which allows those of us flair groupies to use our “slow” buttons for each of these professionals to see how their moves are being accomplished. Too bad they don’t offer an on-the-screen white marker so we could draw play-by-play diagrams like they do in the NFL.

Some drawbacks to this DVD, though, are that the finals results are not listed anywhere, so after watching each round, it was a bit disappointing in that we couldn’t see who won for each division. We know you want this for your records, so we’ve listed them below for your convenience! You can also find them listed on the FBA website for as long as they archive them. Another annoying issue is not having the flair bartenders’ names listed on each screen. You can hear JD and Chico announcing most of them, but it would be nice to have them on screen during each round. Call us nitpicky, but we also don’t enjoy the opening lime green font on a tie dye background…makes it very difficult to read. The menu options are also pretty limited to: Pros, Advanced & Amateur and Credits. No bloopers, finals results or behind the scenes footage.

Pro Finalists (In Order of Placing):
Grand Champion ($10,000): Tomek Malek (Poland)
2nd Place: Rodrigo Delpech (Argentina)
3rd Place: Justin Keane (U.S.) – also won the Finest Call Stall for $500
4th Place: Tom Dyer (England)
5th Place: Danilo Oribe (Uruguay)
6th Place: Marek Posluszny (Poland)
7th Place: Rodrigo Cao (Argentina)
8th Place: Eiji Narita (Japan)
9th Place: Katsumi Ushiki (Japan)

Advanced Finalists (In Order of Placing):
1st Place ($1,000): Ryan Clark (Canada)
2nd Place: Jacob Mitchetti (U.S.)
3rd Place: Takanori Masuda (Japan)
4th Place: Cruz Gutierrez (U.S.)
5th Place: Masaya Suzuki (Japan)

Amateur Division:
1st Place: Rob Gagne

Add Nations 2008 to Your Library
Overall, we highly recommend having this is your flair DVD collection. Some of Marek’s sequences are plain sick and Tomek has an awesome bump sequence you won’t want to miss! If you’re interested in purchasing this important year of flair history, you can visit the FBA’s online store.

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Zero Gravity Competitor Interviews – Omaha’s 2010 Flair Competition

We met with Josh Briggs of Bar Entertainment Specialists, Chris Bridges and a few others at the recent Zero Gravity flair bartending competition in Omaha, Nebraska this month.

Below are the video interviews from that trip. We loved what each flair bartender had to say about flair bartending as a sport and its potential for growth.

Be sure to subscribe to the Generation Flair RSS alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page) to receive our blog posts via e-mail each month.

World Flair Bartending Competitions: 2010 Spring Preview

We announced last week that we would outline a few upcoming competitions this spring for you in the hopes that one of them would make it on your calendar to attend! Because as you know, the best way to support this growing sport is to watch a competition live.

March
March 28: “Roadhouse World Flair” in London. This is the UK Open and where all bartenders resident in the UK can earn points which will see them through to the UK Final taking place in August. For more information please check out www.roadhouseflair.com or contact oli@roadhouseflair.com.

March 28: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville inside the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. This is a once a month flair contest at Kahunaville, each month the winner gets $300 plus a spot in the finals, 2nd place gets $150 and 3rd place gets $50. Each finalist will get at least $1000. Rules are very simple: make one drink in 5 min. For more information on attending (which is free), contact Shawn Oana at Chants91@aol.com or visit his blog: http://justbarflair.com.

March 31-April 1: “Flair Kremlin Stars 2010” is a newly added event to the WFA calendar. To see more details and RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=106905419329687&ref=ts

April
April 1: “News Cafe Menlyn Flair Comp” in Pretoria, South Africa. South Africa is a turning into a hot spot for flair and this comp has had massive success in the past few years. Grown steadily from just a city competition, it has now turned into a nationwide get together of bartenders wanting to perform in front of the famous Pretoria crowd. For more information, contact Patrick: ellis.patrickm@gmail.com.

April 11: “Living Room Shake Down” in Bristol, United Kingdom. This will be Bristol’s biggest Mixology and Flair event to date and promises to be loads of fun for all who attend! What makes it even better is that this event will be free to watch so clear your schedule! The mixology event will start at 4:00pm and the flair will kick off 6:00pm. For details, please contact Emma at bristol@thelivingroom.co.uk.

April 12: “Maloney’s Flair Comp ” in Southport, Merseyside, United Kingdom. This bar has a long standing tradition of flair bartending and the comps are special to say the least. For more information please email maloneyflaircomp@hotmail.co.uk or check out the Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=8399473182&ref=ts.

April 20: “Underground Flair League 2010 – Heat 2” in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The second heat out of five in the UFL, all heats will be held in the Bitterzoet located right in the center of Amsterdam, with cheap accommodations available nearby. For more information contact Anthony via info@flairbartender.nl or check the facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=256887522706#/group.php?gid=15677273713&ref=ts

April 21: “Crystal City Flair Challenge” in Arlington, VA. For one night only, some of the best bartenders in the world will converge at Bailey’s Pub and Grille. This competition will be part of the 2010 FBA Pro Tour, with complete rules, prizes and drink list to be posted on the FBA website.

April 25: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville in Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. See description above.

April 25: “Roadhouse World Flair – World Open” in London, United Kingdom. This competition, similar to the one mentioned above, offers a chance for all International competitors to showcase their talents. The top three bartenders in this competition will be invited back to participate in the World Final taking place at the end of November. For more details check out www.roadhouseflair.com or contact Oli@roadhouseflair.com for more details.

May
May 3-4: “MyBar Showcase” in Louisville, KY is a perfect comp for those also interested in attending the Kentucky Derby (May 1), which coincides with the showcase. So, head out early and make a week of flair bartending and horse racing!

May 12: “Graffiti Bar Flair Comp” in Earlsfield, London, United Kingdom. This is a real bartender’s competition as it’s a test of entertainment, as well as flair, reflected in the almost equal weighting of the scores. For more info, contact info@graffitibar.co.uk.

May 23: “CFFB 5th Qualification Round” in Strasbourg, France. A series of competitions happening in and around France all through 2010. Please note before getting to excited that this event is only for residents of France which means any foreigners working in France are eligible. Five qualifiers in total with the semi-finals taking place October 24, and the final happening in Paris, November 21. The fifth qualifier will take place in Strasbourg at Cafe de Anges and three bartenders will qualify for the semi’s in October. Please check www.cocktailzone.fr or contact Laurent on lg@baracademy.net.

May 23-25: “Super Flair” in Windsor, Ontario (Canada) at the Beach Nightclub. Last year this was rumored to have the best competitor swag bag anywhere. Always a great time, the Canadians certainly know how to throw a professional comp. For more information, visit: http://www.superflair.ca

May 25: “Cincinatti Summer Flair Tour” – the first stop on this five-comp tour located all around the greater Cincinatti area. For more information:  info@cincisummerflair.com.

May 30: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville in Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. See description above.

If we haven’t listed a flair competition you know is happening in your area, please leave a comment, and we’ll update this page as we go along. Would also love to hear from those of you who have attended a competition recently – what did you think? Will you go to another one?

Be sure to subscribe to the Generation Flair alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page) to receive our blog posts via e-mail each month.

Legends XII: The Super Bowl of U.S. Flair Competitions

One of the best things you can do to support the flair bartending scene as a fan is to attend a flair bartending competition. This week we hopped a jet plane to Las Vegas to attend the largest U.S. flair bartending competition called Legends of Bartending. This year was its 12th year and has been described as the Super Bowl of flair bartending competitions. Therefore, we knew we’d be witnessing some of the best flair bartenders in the world competing for a $10,000 first place prize and bragging rights.

Sunday Night: Competitor Registration
The first night at a competition of this type is the beginning of it all. The Sunday night meet and greet is where all competitors (both advanced and professional levels) gather to see each other and finalize their registrations in the competition. Registration is simply the time when competitors sign their liability forms, give the organizers their music and pick up their swag bag (which normally contains a commemorative bottle, tin and bottle opener, a few t-shirts, and any other sponsor gifts).

The evening is normally open to only competitors and their guests. Sponsors are invited and there’s usually a free, open bar for all attendees. At Legends, this is also the time when the FBA announces its year-end awards from the prior year. The FBA’s 2009 awards are voted upon by the membership at large several months before Legends happens. You can see the 2009 winners by visiting the FBA’s Awards page.

LAX Nightclub - LuxorCompetitive Atmosphere
If you’ve never been to a professional flair competition, it’s a lot like a normal sporting event…only it’s held in a bar. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of fans attend. This year Legends XII took place in LAX nightclub inside the Luxor hotel & casino.

After the first night of meet and greet, it’s a full day of qualifying events. Competitors at Legends are expected to pass a Pour Round, a Speed Round and an Exhibition Flair Round. Because Legends is one of the only competitions that requires all three rounds, it is considered one of the most difficult and challenging competitions in existence today.

Spill-Stop Pour Off

Eric Parker competes with Behnam Gerami for the Spill-Stop Pour Off

Pour Round – In this round bartenders pour ten drinks as fast and as accurately as they can. Bartenders are given eight glasses and two tins. Bartenders then pour liquors only (actually they use water in all competitions) into the empty glasses. No ice or mixers are used. Bartenders must pour the proper bottles into the proper glasses with the proper amounts that follow the provided recipes. This round is worth 200 points out of their total qualifying score.

Speed Round – The speed round requires the competitor to make six drinks and open one beer as accurately and quickly as possible. The six drinks are derived from the Master Drink List which is drawn randomly by the competitor. One of the judges then announces those drinks to the competitor and officially calls “Go” to start the clock. Point deductions can happen for spills, missed or wrong ingredients, under-pours and drops or breaks. This round is worth 300 points toward their overall qualifying score.

Eric Parker in his Exhibition Round finals night.

Exhibition Flair Round – Each bartender in all divisions has four minutes to make two drinks. The first drink is made using Working Flair while the second drink showcases Exhibition Flair. Unlike the Speed Round, the competitors know the two drinks they will be making before the competition begins. This allows them to create a full routine (with music). Bartenders are judged on things like Difficulty, Flow of Routine, Creative Flair and Overall Performance. The most valuable of all three rounds, Exhibition Flair is worth 450 points toward the competitor’s overall score.

Tuesday is solely dedicated to finalist rounds. The Advanced Division this year announced five qualifiers: Santiago Gomez, Mike Mills, Ezequiel Abergo, Richard Ramirez and Kevin McCormack. The Pro Division accepted nine qualifiers: Dario Doimo, Danilo Oribe, Gianluigi Bosco, Steven Jarmuz, Behnam Gerami, Riccardo Mastromatteo, Eric Parker, Miyuki Kamimura and Nick Olliney.

These gentlemen (and lady) then competed in another day’s worth of flair to see who would win the ultimate title of Legends XII Champion and $10,000 in prize money. An additional round called Working Flair is added on finals day. This round is worth 300 points and consists of a competitor making 4-5 drinks in three minutes while being judged.

Another unique thing about Legends is the Tandem event. This is where two flair bartenders come together with a routine and are judged similarly to the other rounds. Below is the video of Colin Griffiths and Vladymyr Buryanov of “Team Bar Flies,” who took this year’s Tandem Championship title.

Commentating with Christian Delpech For Thousands of Worldwide Fans

Christian Delpech & Kacy Seitz Commentating for FlairLive TV

Christian & Kacy Commentating on FlairLive TV

The last part of finals day is considered the “big show.” This is where all finalists compete in the Exhibition Flair Round (worth 475 points) on the main stage. Generation Flair was asked to co-host FlairLive TV’s coverage of the main event with Christian Delpech, a well-known legend in this sport. Since this was our se

cond experience with FlairLive TV (first being at Quest 2009), Kacy gladly accepted the challenge once again.

As each competitor took the stage, Christian and Kacy were commentating for fans all over the world (3,500 computers logged on from over 25 different countries)! For the first time, FlairLive TV offered viewers various sponsor commercials and product plugs during the broadcast. The energy was high and the results were anxiously anticipated as each judge reviewed the overall list of finalists to determine who would be crowned Legends XII Champion.

Legends XII Results: 2010 Finalists
Flair bartending competitions like Legends not only offer the prestige and bragging rights of each flair bartender who earns his/her trophy, they also offer some amazing prize money! Below are the final results and their cash prizes won for this event.

1st: Danilo Oribe (Uruguay) – $10,000
2nd: Gianluigi Bosco (Italy) – $2,500
3rd: Dario Doimo (Italy) – $2,000
4th: Miyuki Kamimura (Japan) – $2,000
5th: Nick Olliney (USA) – $1,500
6th: Steve Jarmuz (USA) – $1,500
7th: Eric Parker (USA) – $1,500
8th: Riccardo Mastramatteo (Italy) – $1,500
9th: Behnam Gerami (USA) – $1,000

Attend Your First Competition
If you’re interested in attending a flair competition, check the Flair Bartenders’ Association or the World Flair Association to find a professional competition near you. We’ll be writing a detailed list of upcoming spring/summer competitions next week, so be sure to subscribe to GenF alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page). Even if you’ve never been to a flair competition before, but you’re curious, give it a try! Everyone is welcome and it’s an opportunity for you to watch the sport as its meant to be seen: LIVE!

DVD Review #2: Quest for the Best 2008

Our DVD review series continues by taking a more detailed look into the competitive flair scene. This month’s review is extremely appropriate on timing because we just returned from our trip to this year’s “Quest for the Best” flair bartending competition (Nov. 15-18). It’s the oldest, and also one of the last major competitions in the United States this year.

Although the main subject of this review is looking at last year’s Quest, we have many great memories from this year’s competition. Among them was the opportunity for Kacy to join Christian Delpech and Paul Nguyen as a co-host on FlairLive TV’s live coverage of the 2009 event. Not only was she able to interview all pro competitors right after they came off the finals stage, the unique opportunity allowed Generation Flair to achieve our mission of advocating flair bartending to even more fans. At the end of the night, while having breakfast with Oscar and Christian, we learned the event was viewed in 21 different countries and on over 1,600 unique computers. Oscar estimated that between 3-15 people were watching from each computer as its likely this was an event that was shared.

About Quest
Quest is the oldest flair bartending competition, beginning in 1991 at Pleasure Island in the Manquins Dance Palace. Although the format has gone through several changes over the years, it originally began as a contest to find the best bartender in Disney. Later, it expanded significantly to the rest of the world and quickly became a premier event. To this day, it is still one of the most complete tests of a flair bartender’s skill set. The event gives competitors the opportunity to compete in a speed round, an exhibition flair round, and a specialty round. You can learn more about what each one of these rounds entails by reading “Anatomy of a Flair Competition.”

What’s Special About The 2008 Quest DVD Set
Normally competition DVDs come in singles, but the 2008 Quest DVD set offers Amateur Qualifiers, Advanced Qualifiers, Pro Qualifiers and Pro Finalist disks. You’ll also find some funny shorts with Ben Rose and “McLovin” on the Special Features disk.
One of our favorites is the Team 437 Promo which gives a behind-the-scenes look into how this group gets down to business preparing for speed rounds. Dan Seitz is on record with a 0:53 unadjusted speed round time. The FlairBar.com Show, also hosted by Ben, is jam packed with fun and mayhem. Watch as he takes you on in-depth interviews with the judges and relives some of the many stories remembered, such as AC/DC, chocolate milk, pitchers of Mojitos, Shrek & Donkey and KY Jelly arm wrestling with Chris Cardone!

All fun aside, let’s also not overlook the four disks of insane flair bartending moves. Some of our favorites include Dario Doimo’s behind the back catch to a pour and Rodrigo Delpech’s 19 elbow bumps. You won’t be disappointed by Quest 2008 and the rest of the fantastic finalists:

Pro Finalists (In Order of Placing):
1. Danilo Oribe
2. Rodrigo Delpech
3. Eiji Narita
4. Dario Doimo
5. Rodrigo Cao
6. Oscar Perez
7. Behnam Gerami
8. Giovanni Doimo
9. Sean Story

Give the Gift of Quest

Filmed on location at The Groove Nightclub on City Walk in Orlando Florida and offering over $25,000 in cash and prizes, the Quest World Championships were an event not to be missed. However, if you weren’t able to make it this year, the 2008 DVD set is a great gift idea for the flair bartending fan in your family. Buy it from BarProducts.com, a major sponsor of the event each year.

Meeting Oscar Perez: FlairLive TV’s Entrepreneur

oscarperezAn opportunity came for us to meet with Oscar while in Las Vegas last month. We met at Kahunaville in the Treasure Island hotel. While waiting, we were greeted by Vladymyr Buryanov, another legend in our sport. What amazes us time and again is the humble and grateful attitude we are constantly presented with from the flair guys. I was drinking my hazelnut latte as Vlad approached and asked if I’d like a shot of irish cream to get rid of the Carnival Court hangover I’d been experiencing from the night before. Needless to say, his kindness worked rather well. And, just in time…

Oscar arrived shortly thereafter, and was greeted by everyone behind the bar. An average-height guy with dark black hair, Oscar was dressed in a fitted black t-shirt and jeans. He carried a satchel that could only be recognized as a video camera case. So, I assumed he would be taking some footage of the Kahunaville competition later that evening. As Dan and I shook hands with him, the thing I noticed most, though, was his warm smile. I could tell this was a genuinely nice guy, just wanting to talk about one of his biggest passions in the world…flair bartending.

After finding a quiet spot in the Kahunaville restaurant, we sat down with Oscar to learn more about his latest venture. Our conversation began by me asking Oscar to describe a little bit about his background and career. This accomplished, Uruguayan flair bartender began learning at the early age of 18. Although his career began in South America, he has traveled to more than 20 countries competing and teaching flair bartending to hundreds of people. The list of competitions was extensive, and the passion behind his love for flair was indescribable. You could see the love of the sport in his eyes as he went back into time to relive each year’s worth of competitions attended, places traveled and trophies earned.

Now semi-retired, Oscar continues his love for flair through FlairLive TV, a new website that’s mission is to bring flair bartending to the comfort of your own home via live streaming internet broadcasts of flair competitions, industry interviews and behind-the-scenes interviews with competitive flair bartenders. Did we mention it’s completely free?

The idea for FlairLive TV came to Oscar from running a former website he and Pablo Fernandez created to promote flair in Latin America. LatinBar.net was mainly a message board, but also offered live chat and competition results for a wide audience in Spanish. They continued to grow the site over the next several years, but with travel commitments and living in different countries, it became difficult to keep up regular communication on the business. In 2005 the website was officially turned off, but the idea continued to morph into a bigger idea for Oscar.

After several months of contemplation, Oscar knew he needed more help. He approached Rodrigo Delpech, a dear friend and fellow competitor. They continued to toss the idea around and realized they were in need of a third party who could bring more investment capital and a different perspective to the mix. That person was Rodrigo’s older brother, Christian Delpech. Oscar knew it may be a stretch for the well-known flair icon to support the new idea due to his hectic travel schedule and other business commitments, but Christian was immediately on board after learning more about the new concept.

Since then, the team went to work, creating a site with full-fledged graphics and a professional look. In its first month online, FlairLive TV received 500,000 hits. “Most of our original traffic was from producing a special program of the Legends competition from LAX this year in Vegas,” Oscar said.

The site continues to draw attention from major labels and sponsors with its high quality videos, intense competition coverage and exclusive interviews. But Oscar, Rodrigo and Christian remain firm in their original goal of developing the site for a year before accepting any major sponsorship deals. Garnering a loyal following is the biggest priority he said. That’s why the site is free to anyone who would like to watch and learn more about this up and coming sport.

“But you know, if ESPN or another network wants to approach us with an offer to buy, hey we’re all for that,” he said excitedly.

We don’t blame him, after all, that’s everyone’s goal who’s involved with flair. Exposure to more people, more often is what is really needed to boost the sport into the mainstream.

Oscar agreed, “We stay focused on keeping the site growing with new features, content and marketing so that more people all over the world can experience and become fans of the sport.”

Some unique marketing techniques they’ve accomplished include two iPhone apps, a heavy Facebook following and a dedicated Twitter feed. Oscar informed us that other new ideas are on the horizon, and they continue to look for people interested in commentating and becoming reporters for the site in various countries.

“Sometimes when you think of an idea, it doesn’t always come out the way you imagine it will the first time around,” he said. “I think Latinbar.net was that for me…and this second time around with FlairLive TV is exactly what I’ve wanted thanks to the help and teamwork that goes into the site from Christian, Rodrigo and our team of 15 people behind the scenes.”

With millions of new hits this year and from more than 23 different countries, we see nothing but great things coming from this new flair site. As we finish this post, we’re at a friend’s house watching the Firestarter Challenge live from Kahunaville in Las Vegas. We love being able to sit in our living room and cheer for our favorite bartender as they compete for $12,000 in cash. So, get your next group together, throw a flair party and put the following dates on your calendar…we’ll see you online!

Upcoming Events to Watch on FlairLive TV
Firestarter Challenge from Las Vegas: Recorded event posted now
US Flair Open at Carnival Court: Nov. 9-12 – special to be posted in December
Quest for the Best in Orlando: Nov. 15-18 – LIVE coverage

Economy’s Impact on Flair Bartending Competitions

Sponsor photoIf you haven’t been affected by the economy (either directly or know someone who has), it’s likely you’re living in a very remote location. Dan & I have seen some negative things happen to some of our closest friends this past year.

It seems as though everywhere you turn, there’s bad news. Several major flair bartending competitions have been canceled. Bar sales are down. Companies have announced large-scale layoffs. And, major flair cities like Vegas and Orlando are seeing some of the worst home foreclosure rates in the country. One of our  friends’ home value plummeted so much that it would cost them money if they sold their Las Vegas home.

These issues not only take a direct effect on our personal lives, but also professionally, which is why we chose to address the topic in today’s post.

Has the economy diminished flair competition sponsorship money?
According to a recent article from Reuters, the sports industry’s sponsorship spending growth rate is projected to have the smallest increase in 2009 (when last year it was almost double the next-closest category).

Granted this research is focused primarily on mainstream sports like the NBA, MLB, NFL and Nascar. However, flair bartending sponsorships would fall within this category as well. So how has the economy affected competitions, bartenders and flair in general?

We talked with several flair bartending competitors and organizers to find out.

Mike McLean“There has always been a concern about getting sponsorship and support of flair competitions, not just this year,” said Mike McLean, Director of Sales and Marketing for Flairco and Vice President of the FBA. “There were several high profile events canceled this year, but others were able to make it through. I’m hoping that the global economy bounces back in 2010 and we can potentially go after some new sponsors, maybe even mainstream lifestyle brands, to inject life back into the competitive
scene.”

Colin Griffiths, professional flair bartender and event organizer in Las Vegas was more direct. “The state of the economy has effected flair because sponsor companies are under more pressure to justify results for the money they contribute,” he said. “This combined with their pressure to meet their own sales goals makes it harder to find those willing to support our sport.”

The recession, although affecting everyone, is primarily a U.S. symptom. We were curious if the economic ails traveled across the Atlantic to our flair friends in Europe.

Tom DyerTom Dyer, professional flair bartender in London and key organizer with the World Flair Association, said he didn’t really have any concerns about flair competitions not happening due to lack of sponsorship money. “No concerns at all,” he said. “I actually think this is a good thing for flair. Flair is growing so fast that it needs a break.”

Dyer went on to point out that life balance is a good thing and that with so many competitions happening all the time there’s not a lot of time for everything like getting enough practice in on top of a full-time bartending job and a regular life.

“We had very few comps canceled due to the credit crunch and instead saw a lot of new independent comps mushrooming all over the place which is great,” said Tug van den Bergh, professional judge and founding member of the World Flair Association. “Bartenders in Europe are still willing to travel to flair competitions for little money, which is helping to keep our scene very much alive!!”

To further amplify the positive sentiments from the European flair community, Christian Delpech did a recent FlairLive TV interview with Finest Call’s European Sales Representative Bob Jones. Jones reported that as a company, Finest Call is actually spending more on sales and marketing this year than they did last year. He went on to describe his gratitude, knowing that not all companies are in a position to increase spending during these tough times. Although Finest Call is the number one mixer in the U.S., their interest in deepening the brand in Europe is evident.

Griffiths was right. Companies will foot the sponsorship bill when it is justifiable to their corporate goals, no matter the state of the economy. Finest Call is one of the largest flair bartending supporters and has been for many years. They understand that to increase sales of their product they go to those who are the “cheerleaders” or pushers of that product…flair bartenders.

As long as flair organizers, bartenders and supporters understand the connection to corporate goals, approaching potential sponsors for flair competitions is still a viable funding avenue. This isn’t to infer sponsorships will be easy to secure. As McLean stated, 2010 is a new year, and new sponsorship avenues will need to be considered. Overall, though, expectations are positive when looking at the future of flair bartending. With its international presence, mass following and current sponsor support, flair bartending can only grow from here.