For decades, Canada's Molson Breweries owned NHL sponsorship rights, only to have them grabbed by Labatt back in 2007. Now an Ontario appeals court has given the rights, worth hundreds of millions, back to Molson.
The pair faced off in court because Labatt “failed to sew up an extension of its sponsorship rights within an exclusive negotiating window last winter,” the Globe and Mail reports. The league then went back to Molson and signed a deal with them. Labatt requested and received an injunction last month, but then lost its appeal Tuesday and is now “reviewing its options for further legal action.”
Molson execs are likely tipping a few back to celebrate the fact that they get to spend “about $375-million over the next seven years” for the NHL branding exclusive, the paper notes.
Meanwhile, Labatt is drinking its sorrows. “The NHL and the access it provides to Labatt ... is the single greatest opportunity to grow Labatt’s share in Canada,” Kyle Norrington, the marketing director of Budweiser and regional brands for Labatt in Canada, wrote in an affidavit filed with the Ontario Superior Court.
“There is no other substitute for this national access to these consumers. The nexus of sports / heritage / emotional / tradition in hockey has no other Canadian comparable.”
Now that Molson will get to enjoy that access again, you can be sure the company will take full advantage of it. “It’s a great springboard when we start to look at how we expand and grow that brand south of the border,” Molson spokesman Adam Moffatt told the Globe and Mail. “We’ll move beyond rink boards and ad placements, curating experiences for beer drinkers and hockey fans.”
Labatt shouldn’t feel the loss too much in Canada, though. The brewer still has sponsorship deals with three NHL teams: the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and the recently reconstituted Winnipeg Jets.
“People cheer for leagues a lot less than they cheer for teams,” said Bob Stellick, a Labatt spokesman, to the Globe and Mail.
Molson maintains sponsorship of four Canadian teams: the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens.
At least both breweries don't have to put their NHL dreams on ice.