In the world of Big Beer in Canada, SABMiller is the new kid on the block. On April 1, the company officially took over operations of its brands – such as Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Lite – in Canada. And it is betting on sports sponsorship to help it find a foothold.
On Wednesday, SABMiller Canada announced a new multiyear deal for Miller Lite to become the official beer of Major League Baseball in Canada.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of another deal for the company's Miller Genuine Draft brand, which last week became the official beer of the National Basketball Association in Canada.
These league-level sponsorships are different from marketing partnerships with teams or with individual athletes. They can give brands the right to associate with the league logo, for example, or larger events run by the league. Miller Genuine Draft, for example, will be able to promote its brand in conjunction with the NBA's All-Star game in Toronto next year. Miller Lite will promote its new baseball sponsorship for the first time next month, when the MLB All-Star game takes place in Cincinnati.
Other MLB league sponsors in Canada include Pepsico, its snack food division, Frito-Lay, and its sports drink brand Gatorade; Copa Airlines; and Gillette. SABMiller does not have the same sponsorship deal in the United States, where the league's marketing partner is Budweiser parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev SA.
Recently, Miller Lite has been shifting its marketing strategy to focus on the brand's heritage, including revamping packaging by going back to the older design for its white cans. The company believes the new sponsorship will be a good fit for that strategy.
"Just like baseball, Miller Lite has an all-American origin and a rich heritage," Keith Fawcett, director of marketing for Miller Lite, said in a statement.