The champagne of ales is rebranding just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.
Labatt 50, the Toronto-based brewery’s longest-standing brand, has been temporarily renamed “Labatt 150” on select packages of cans in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland in the lead-up to Canada Day on July 1.
The iconic “50” logo on these summer cans is preceded by a “1” with a red maple leaf in the middle of it. “It’s a natural way for us to share a cultural moment for Canada,” says Andrew Oosterhuis, director of marketing at Labatt. “This is a brand that has authenticity to speak to this moment.” (Just in case you weren’t sure, a 150th annual celebration is known as a “sesquicentennial.”)
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 1, 2017
Labatt 50 has a fan in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a native of Quebec where the brand is omnipresent, who unknowingly tipped off the nation about the company’s plans via Twitter on April Fool’s Day when he posted a picture of a photoshopped “Labatt 150” label.
— Labatt Breweries (@Labatt170) April 1, 2017
“They took my suggestion! My favourite beer, now 3 times as patriotic. Can’t wait to try it… #Canada150,” he posted on April 1. Trudeau did not have any insider knowledge of the company’s marketing plans, Oosterhuis says, but he “helped start the conversation early.”
“It was a special moment as a marketer when the leader of our country is recognizing his favorite brand and pitching an idea that we already had in the pipeline. We look forward to sending him the actual produced product as a gift,” he says.
(Don’t worry about Trudeau pounding back enough 150s to develop a beer belly. The 45-year-old is a fitness fanatic who runs in between meetings with foreign dignitaries and enjoys boxing. He even defeated a Conservative senator in a charity match five years ago before he became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.)
Canadian brands and institutions are doing everything they can to associate themselves with the anniversary of Confederation. Canada Post recently unveiled a series of 10 new stamps celebrating a wide range of Canadiana, including Expo ’67, the 1976, 1988, and 2010 Olympics, the Trans-Canada Highway, cancer fundraising crusader Terry Fox, the passing of marriage equality legislation in 2005 and the 1972 Summit Series hockey team, which defeated the Soviet Union’s national team in an epic eight-game battle between communism and capitalism 45 years ago.
It goes without saying that a few beers have been hoisted in honour of these events and people over the years and Labatt 150 could be on millions of Canadians’ lips this Canada Day.
Labatt, which was founded 20 years before Canada itself, first launched “50” in 1950 when John and Hugh Labatt, grandsons to founder John K. Labatt, wanted to commemorate 50 years of their brewing partnership. The light-tasting ale, originally dubbed “Anniversary Ale,” was the company’s best selling beer for nearly 30 years. The name was subsequently changed to “50,” with the tagline, “champagne of ales.”
— Labatt Breweries (@Labatt170) May 19, 2017
While Labatt has been owned by the Belgian beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev since 1995, it’s still near and dear to Canadians’ hearts.
“For as long as Canada has been around, Labatt has played a role in our nation’s history. We’ve grown from a single brewery in London, Ontario into a national brewer with a strong presence in communities across the country,” stated Todd Allen, Labatt’s VP of Marketing.
“Labatt 50 is steeped in this heritage – it’s our longest-standing brand and was Canada’s best-selling beer until 1979. It was a natural choice to refresh this iconic brand to celebrate such a monumental occasion for Canadians.”
— Stephanie Duff (@sduff1013) June 12, 2017
Labatt 150, which is brewed in London, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, is being sold in the six provinces in six and 15-packs of 355 ml cans and 24-packs of 473 ml cans. Bottles of Labatt 50 will continue with their original labels.
Labatt also producers high-profile beers such as Kokanee, Budweiser, Bud Lite and Alexander Keith’s, but Oosterhuis says the Canada 150 projects will be limited to “50.” Er, “150.”