Long known as “Chicago’s beer since 1902,” Old Style has launched a new campaign that pays homage to one of the city’s most renowned institutions.
Beginning this month, Old Style is honoring the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) with a commemorative 16-ounce can emblazoned with an image of a firefighter and the tools of the trade.
In addition, sales of the commemorative cans will benefit the Ende, Menzer, Walsh and Quinn (EMWQ) Retirees’, Widows’ and Children’s Assistance Fund, a non-profit organization that supports the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
The “Chicago’s Heroes” campaign is an innovative program running through the end of December 2014, according to Andy Gurjian and Brandon Carr, director of regional brands and associate brand manager, respectively, for Pabst Brewing Company. The campaign was established to “put our flag in the city” that has generously supported Old Style during its history, Carr said, while saluting some of its most recognizable members.
“Chicago is very much about its first responders,” Carr said. “But instead of just coming out with a commemorative can showcasing the fire department, we wanted to take it to the next level and do something meaningful.”
A 501c3 organization with a five-member volunteer board, the EMWQ Assistance Fund has been helping the families and children of fallen firefighters for the past 22 years, according to board President Anthony Martin, a lieutenant on the CFD and Mt. Greenwood resident.
During that time, Martin said, the EMWQ Assistance Fund has donated more than $10 million to the neediest families, including those widows, many without Social Security, who receive a pension of $1,000 to $1,500 a month.
“These are widows who are living on less than $12,000 a year,” Martin said. “My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all widowed, so this is a cause near and dear to my heart.”
In addition to providing widows and orphaned children with an annual gift, the organization provides immediate financial assistance to the children of active members who die, regardless of whether their death was in the line of duty or off duty.
Through the generosity of the community, an annual charity softball tournament and a number of corporate sponsors, the EMWQ Assistance Fund has grown each year to help the CFD families and children most in need, Martin said.
“It allows them to live out the rest of their lives in dignity,” he said, “and gives kids a shot at some of the opportunities they would not have otherwise had.”
Martin said he has been in contact with the leaders of the “Chicago’s Heroes” campaign for the past three or four months and is thrilled with the outcome of the design.
“There is a lot of civic pride on that can; it is definitely a celebration of the fire department, not the fire department promoting a beer,” he said. “I think it really demonstrates how well Old Style did its homework.”
Created by K.C. Blinn, creative director for Pabst, the design on the commemorative can replaces the iconic Old Style shield with the CFD Maltese cross positioned above an image of the Chicago skyline and a firefighter in turnout gear. The color scheme was also changed to red and black to represent the CFD and other Chicago institutions like the Hawks and Bulls.
In addition, Gurjian said, the backside of the can includes a three-paragraph message about the campaign’s beneficiary.
“We really wanted to let that be the focal point,” he said. “Of course, we want to sell beer, but it’s more about giving back to the city. The fund is a smaller organization, but it’s made up of people with big hearts who are so passionate in what they do.”
According to Gurjian and Carr, response to the program so far has been “phenomenal,” and brand managers are looking forward to the campaign’s official kick-off at the CFD’s 5th District softball tournament on Saturday, Aug. 16, at St. Christina Fields, 111th Street and Central Park Avenue.
The campaign will conclude at the end of December, Carr said, but officials from Old Style said they plan to continue the relationship with the organization in some way.
“This has never really been done before; it’s exciting to be the pioneers,” Carr said. “This couldn’t be a better marriage, and we’re looking forward to a long and happy relationship.”