Labatt takes on NHL sponsorship rights

The deal will extend Budweiser's hockey-centric positioning to major events and give more visibility to the Mike's Hard brand.

Budweiser is now an Official Beer of the NHL in Canada, as Labatt Breweries of Canada has re-established its partnership with the league.

In the U.S., AB InBev sister division Anheuser-Busch will be leading the NHL sponsorship with Bud Light. Financial terms of the multi-year, non-exclusive deal – which was negotiated internally – were not disclosed.

Molson Coors had been the beer sponsor of the NHL since 2011, when its sponsorship agreement with the league began and Labatt’s previous contract ended (Molson Coors did not renew its partnership prior to the start of the 2019-2020 NHL season, and AB InBev’s deal takes effect immediately), leading the sponsorship with Molson Canadian in Canada and Coors Light in the U.S.

Despite this, Labatt has worked to maintain a connection between the Budweiser brand and hockey without a league-level sponsorship since then. AB InBev has local partnerships with 24 of the NHL’s 31 teams, and Budweiser has continued with hockey-centric marketing, primarily through the “Red Light” connected goal lamp, which it has updated throughout the years to help it “own the goal” and establish a connection with the game’s most memorable moments.

Todd Allen, VP of marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada, says one of the benefits of taking Budweiser’s connection to hockey “to the ultimate level” is that the deal is inclusive of the NHL’s marquee events, such as the Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend and Stanley Cup Playoffs. Allen could not get into detail about how the company planned to activate the sponsorship, but says it would include media, experiential and – especially important – content, helping to extend its recently launched “Lay It On The Line” campaign and create new options for the Red Lights.

“We’re able to now take our experiences and our content to be able to leverage these tentpole events across North America,” Allen says. “It just opens up so many opportunities from a content perspective.”

The deal also includes Labatt’s Mike’s Hard brand, with the new Mike’s Harder Sparkling Water being an Official Hard Drink of the NHL. though in the U.S., Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer is the Official Seltzer of the NHL, while Jägermeister is the Official Shot of the NHL. Since November, Nutrl has been the Official Vodka and Official Vodka and Soda of the NHL in Canada, while New Amsterdam has that status in the U.S.

While the sponsorship will help Budweiser enhance an established brand positioning, it will help Mike’s Hard – and, specifically, one of its newest product innovations ? get in front of a wider audience.

“Consumers tastes are constantly evolving and, as you know, we’re a total beverage company, not just beer,” Allen says, pointing out that Labatt is the market leader in the ready-to-drink and cider categories. “This is another great vehicle to be able to give consumers a range of beverage offerings [...] and connect those occasions to the NHL partnership. It’s giving our fans and Canadians across the country more variety as their tastes and palettes evolve as well.”