From striking out on their first business pitch to selling out their first launch night, The Beer Bat knows what it’s like to make a mid-game comeback — and it all started with a plastic cup and a dream to make a memorable customer experience.
The Beer Bat — a branded and customizable drinkware brand — may still be considered a small business, but their success story can be an inspiration for businesses of any size. Keep reading to learn more about how their brand got started, how they landed on BigCommerce and how they’re preparing for the season ahead.
Pitching the New Idea
Even before The Beer Bat came to be, Sam McGee and his team at Green Egg Design already had a foothold in the branded drinkware industry. The team had just finished a project in Las Vegas, creating plastic bottles for Hard Rock Cafe’s outdoor casino, Rehab.
“We were making these 32-ounce drinking bottles, and Rehab was serving alcohol in them and selling them for $40-$50, and they were simply being thrown away. But all the casinos wanted was just their name on it,” said McGee, president of The Beer Bat.
To create a better customer experience and go along with Rehab’s theme, in 2018, McGee and his team came up with the idea to make the bottles into the shape of a needle. Confident that the product would be a huge hit, the team pitched the idea to Rehab — only to hear that the product wasn’t what they were looking for.
Nevertheless, McGee and his team knew they were onto something. So when the Hartford Yard Goats — a minor league baseball team — opened shop just outside of the team’s Hartford office, McGee knew he had to take another swing.
Hitting a Grand Slam
“I did some research, and what I learned is that the baseball park seats about 8,000 people, and everybody is drinking,” said McGee.
After landing a meeting with the team’s owner, McGee pitched 32 concepts for a uniquely shaped souvenir cup, and — you guessed it — the owner chose the hollowed-out baseball bat option.
To break even, McGee needed to sell 10,000 bats, but with only nine home games left in the Yard Goat’s season, the team only bought 500 to begin with.
Needless to say, 500 was nowhere near enough.
With 20-30 fans waiting in line at a time, the bats sold out almost immediately, and within a couple days, the food and beverage team for the Yard Goats asked to purchase 2,500 more. But with only two home games left, those bats sold out, too.
“From then on, other major league baseball teams — I mean, everywhere — were calling the Yard Goats, and they were just transferring the phone to me. Customers would say, ‘Oh, we need 1,000,’ or ‘We need 10,000,’” said McGee.
At this point, however, the patented name for the product was actually The Drinking Vessel. But with so many customers nicknaming it “beer bat,” the new name eventually stuck — and so became The Beer Bat, branded drinkware built on customization and creativity.
Creating a business model is something McGee is passionate about — finding a market and looking for the product that fits that market, or vice versa. That’s exactly what he did with The Beer Bat, making it a memorable experience for fans, instead of simply a drinking cup.
“Just look at the people when they have The Beer Bat,” said McGee. “They’re smiling, and some are not even looking at the game! It’s just about having a beer in a bat.”
Growing the Teams
From there, The Beer Bat skyrocketed.
Starting with just one minor league baseball team, the company’s customer base soon grew to 27 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams across the country and the Negro League Baseball Museum (NLBM).
“Our first license was actually with the Negro League,” remarked McGee. “We’re going to be celebrating the Negro League’s baseball history throughout the entire season with our Negro League beer bat, which is, again, another customizable bat where you can actually choose which team logo you want.”
Partial proceeds from the sale of the commemorative Beer Bat go to the The Negro League’s Baseball Museum (NLBM) to support this non-profit in its mission of preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America.
On top of that, The Beer Bat now has patents in some of the largest baseball markets, such as the U.S., Canada, Japan and South Korea, as well as a growing market in Mexico.
But with rapid growth comes the difficulty of keeping up with growing demand.
“Right now, it’s about how fast we can grow in our manufacturing, and that’s what we’re doing this year,” said McGee. “We should be able to get into at least 5% or 10% of our market by the end of this year.”
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BigCommerce Enters the Game
Originally on WooCommerce, The Beer Bat found that the ecommerce platform simply couldn’t keep up with the business’ increasing demand.
“BigCommerce provided us with an easy and well-documented setup experience to enable us to soft-launch in less than two months, as well as the features needed to support our future growth in any direction,” said McGee.
But it wasn’t just the platform that knocked it out of the park — it was also the people.
“Things were different with BigCommerce. In our first interview, you all had some ideas for us, presented the platform and walked us through it. BigCommerce gave us a more realistic view for a company our size, knowing that the numbers were there and we had the potential to grow into a multi-million-dollar company rather quickly,” said McGee.
Check out our full case study on The Beer Bat to learn more about why they chose BigCommerce and how our platform could be a winning move for your business, too.
Going into Next Season
With a newly acquired MLB license, The Beer Bat is looking forward to expanding its B2C efforts by selling direct to consumers, allowing fans to customize their bat with their favorite team logo.
“Our B2B is now going to influence our B2C,” said McGee. “If you can’t get a bat or they sell out before you get to the game, you can go online and order it … We’re going to have this whole force of movement going on between these two business platforms.”
And B2C isn’t the only innovation on the horizon for The Beer Bat. There’s much more in the works for the company, such as allowing consumers to upload their own artwork or add custom text on any Beer Bat — and BigCommerce can’t wait to see what’s next.
The Final Word
Are you a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business looking to get into the B2B space? Schedule a demo for BigCommerce B2B Edition, and our ecommerce experts will be happy to assist you in the transition. And for extra insights on all things B2B, check out The State of B2B Ecommerce: 2022 Trend Report.