February 22, 2011
One of the oddest sights at the Heritage Classic was the ubiquitous presence of Budweiser in the Spectator Plaza, where one would have expected to see Molson or Labatt or really any other beer-maker besides that flavored water in a longneck.
Chances are we've seen it for the last time ... at least for the next seven years.
That's the duration of what the New York Times called the biggest corporate sponsorship in NHL history: a nearly $400 million deal that makes Molson Canadian the official beer of the NHL in North America and gives Coors Light sponsorship rights.
(UPDATE: Reuters reports that Labatt may ligitage, claiming it had a deal in place with the NHL.)
Interestingly, MillerCoors lost its gig as the official beer for the NFL last May, replaced by Bud Light. Andy England, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer for MillerCoors, told the NY Times that the NHL deal wasn't a reaction to that, adding:
"Hockey fans are big beer drinkers. In fact, we have data that shows hockey fans are the biggest beer drinkers of any major sports league."
Researchers knew they were on to something when hockey fans would answer "I never liked you anyway but do you wanna makeout hey where's the pisser" and "buuuuuurrrrrrrrrp" on every survey question ...
From Richard Sandomir of the Times:
Molson Coors owns 42 percent of MillerCoors, so it pursued the deal as a North American partnership. An agreement was reached soon after the Jan. 30 All-Star Game. Dave Perkins, the president of Molson Coors Canada, said the N.H.L. deal was designed to add to the momentum built by Molson Canadian during last year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver and through its "Made From Canada" ad campaign.
"For me, Molson Canadian and hockey are synonymous," Perkins said. "Hockey has a broad-based popularity in Canada that fits well with Molson Canadian." He said that Coors Light was the No. 1 beer brand in Canada and Molson Canadian was No. 3.
(What's wrong with you, Canada? To think we respected your suds palete, only to hear you treat the Silver Bullet like liquid gold. For shame!)
From the NHL, the specifics on the deal:
In addition to becoming the official and exclusive beer sponsor of the NHL, Molson Canadian will gain the same distinction for key League events, including NHL Face-Off, NHL Winter Classic, NHL Heritage Classic, NHL All-Star, as well as the opportunity to offer consumer promotions involving the Stanley Cup. The deal also provides the brand with opportunities to engage fans through NHL media assets NHL.com, NHL Network, NHL Mobile and NHL Social. Molson Canadian is currently the Official Beer sponsor of many NHL teams in Canada and the U.S.
"The opportunity to offer consumer promotions involving the Stanley Cup ..." just thinking out loud here, but do you think the NHL and/or the Hockey Hall of Fame would stand in the way of a contest in which the winner(s) sipped Molson from the Cup?
Whether it's COO John Collins (definitely) or Gary Bettman (begrudgingly) that deserves the credit, there's no question the NHL has made huge gains in corporate sponsorship. From the Times:
From the 2008-9 to the 2009-10 season, the league says its sponsorship revenue grew 32 percent. Since this season began, the N.H.L. has renewed deals with Bridgestone, Cisco Systems and McDonald's and signed new ones with Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, BlackBerry, Discover (in the United States) and Hershey's (in Canada).
That goes for the on-air product as well. Or are we the only ones who remember the VERSUS between-periods hit being sponsored by Waste Management? (Appropriate, given the quality of the studio show before NBC's influence.)