Former Vice heads Alex Light and Matty Graham launch Bowlo Draught

Former Vice Australia commercial director Alex Light and client creative partner Matty Graham have launched Bowlo Draught, a craft brewery intended to aid their local lawn bowls club.

Light and Graham were amongst the staff of Vice who were made redundant in June last year as the network dramatically reduced its numbers in Melbourne and Sydney, and closed the local outpost of its creative agency Virtue completely.

Matty Graham and Alex Light

Speaking to Mumbrella, Light and Graham said they are keen to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry while focusing on their growing beer business.

“I had the really great opportunity to be able to work with the fantastic team, Kirsty Muddle and Cummins & Partners Sydney on a part-time basis since starting the business with Alex,” Graham said.

“That’s been obviously a bit of a juggle but there really are new ways of working [which] I think is a real new factor in professional life post-COVID, so I’m certainly still working there and leading some client business and continued to do so for the immediate future.”

Light added: “I’d done a little bit of consulting work since; I was a consultant to publishing companies, creative agencies, I actually even had a bit of a turn being a client with my last business as well making an above the line campaign. And whilst I’ve wound all that significantly back now to be focused on Bowlo, I’m still sort of keeping an advisor role with the creative agency Bolster.

“I don’t want to throw away the industry, it’s nice absolutely to keep a foot in the industry, and be able to make sure that everything we’ve learned along the way is still being kept alive.”

Light spent nine years at Vice, starting out as head of content partnerships before being elevated to general manager of brand partnerships and finally commercial director and acting country manager. It was there he met Graham, who spent just under two years with the business. Graham’s extensive agency experience spans Saatchi & Saatchi, DDB, Clemenger BBDO Sydney and Cummins & Partners. Graham is also a competitive lawn bowler.

Bowlo Draught was inspired by lawn bowls clubs suffering due to COVID-19 and struggling to stay afloat due to declining revenues and dwindling membership. Light and Graham want to get Australians back out on the fields for a casual beer and a game of bowls. A range of creative developed to market the beer also has an underlying purpose to encourage people to head to their local bowls club.

“When we work in advertising we often counsel our clients ‘brand up during times of recession to come out the other side stronger’,” Graham told Mumbrella.

“Alex and I both worked on a lot of beer advertising and branding over the years so we thought this is probably the one chance we get to really do a bit of a career 180 and apply what we’ve learned over the years and are really passionate about.”

“I would add to that, that a lot of the work towards the end of our time at Vice was helping make beer brands and helping make alcohol brands and market them as well,” Light added.

“Redundancy is emotionally difficult but there is a financial upside as well, and we felt there was no better opportunity to have a crack ourselves. I think we have a willingness to challenge ourselves. We’ve learned a few things about how to build brands and market them and I think all the other parts of running a business and learning about managing inventory and how to do channels and distribution felt like a really great way to just expand my career and take the next step.”

Bowlo Draught is targeted towards the ‘contemporary beer drinker’ and craft beer enthusiasts. The beer is 100% Australian owned and made from 100% Australian ingredients. The beer officially launches on 18 April, with an event at Light and Graham’s local bowling club in Bondi.

“It’s been quite refreshing, getting involved in a new industry, and the beer industry, I don’t know if it’s unique, it’s been fantastic,” Light said.

“We’ve asked a lot of brands and companies and other brewers for advice along the way and I think there’s a general, very supportive kind of attitude within the beer industry. Everyone is happy to give their time, their advice, and I think the general sentiment is that everyone win which has been incredibly refreshing and inspiring.”


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