You’ve played, watched or read about the tournaments. You’ve seen the signage. You’ve tried their beer. Labatt Blue is a pivotal partner for USA Hockey, but isn’t it a Canadian beer? What’s the real story?
USA Hockey sat down with Labatt Blue Brand Manager Lisa Texido to talk about their beer, the partnership and the spectacular new Team USA Olympic cans.
USA Hockey: When did Labatt Blue and USA Hockey start to collaborate?
Lisa Texido: What’s cool about this is that the partnership started 11 years ago. Really, it was just a grassroots way for us to get involved with hockey in the United States
USA Hockey: The beer is Canadian, right? Why would you want to get involved with hockey in America?
Lisa Texido: It’s a good point to clarify. We get that question a lot, too. We’re with Labatt USA. We import our beer from Canada. The beer is Canadian-made, but our headquarters for our Labatt operation is in Buffalo, N.Y. All of the marketing and selling that we do is in the U.S. We’re very proud of selling and marketing a Canadian beer. We think Labatt is a step above other beer choices. We have a lot of passion around the fact that we’re brewed there and we import our beer daily, but it’s important to note that this all benefits our U.S. operations. That’s just another nice component of our overall relationship.
Really, when you think about it, hockey doesn’t have borders. It makes sense that we have this relationship because hockey has such a great following here. When Labatt was thinking 10 or 11 years ago about how they could really expand the brand, one of the things that made a lot of sense to them was to do it through hockey.
USA Hockey: Safe to say your company is full of hockey enthusiasts then …
Lisa Texido: Hockey, for a long time, has been a pillar for Labatt. We were thinking about how to build a brand presence outside of our core state. How do we get more people aware of the brand and get them to try it? Hockey seemed like the perfect fit.
USA Hockey: So what was the first step?
Lisa Texido: We started with a partnership that allowed us to get beer for the players in the locker room and provide some signage at those tournaments and be a part of those events. We really loved the interaction we were able to have with the players during those experiences. At that time, USA Hockey was doing the indoor men’s rec leagues, so we partnered with them on that initiative. USA Hockey was a perfect fit for what we were trying to do with some of the activities they already had in place.
USA Hockey: What else?
Lisa Texido: We’re still doing that today. But as the partnership evolved and we got talking more deeply with people at USA Hockey about some of their initiatives, we said ‘Hey, what do you think about doing some pond hockey events?’ And they loved it.
USA Hockey: And that all began with the Labatt Blue USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships on Dollar Lake in Eagle River, Wis.?
Lisa Texido: The first event that we did with USA Hockey from a pond standpoint was the Eagle River event in 2006. And from there we’ve evolved with a few other signature pond events with USA Hockey. It’s been great. We love the ability to put on these events with USA Hockey for hockey players. Grab your sticks, drop the puck and play outside in the elements. And on top of that, we’re still happy that we’re part of the indoor men’s rec leagues. We think that’s an awesome program that USA Hockey has and we love being able to have beer in the locker rooms and provide a little something for them after the game. It’s just been a great partnership.
USA Hockey: How did the gorgeous Team USA-themed Olympic beer cans come about?
Lisa Texido: This was the result of a serendipitous phone call. We were brainstorming different ways to activate the brand. I was curious as to what we could do beyond the pond events because we’ve seen a lot of nice success with our NHL sponsorships when we incorporate the team’s marks on the cans. So I was just curious, do we have opportunities within our USA Hockey sponsorship?
USA Hockey: And?
Lisa Texido: We did a little digging. We found out that we have the rights to use all of the former Team USA Olympic men’s hockey jerseys. I heard that, and I said ‘We’re doing jersey cans.’ We just ran with it and it has been awesome. We are so thrilled with the way they turned out. We’re so excited that the consumers are into them. It’s really turned into something bigger than we had hoped. We’re just so pumped that it turned out the way it did.
USA Hockey: They have been all over the internet …
Lisa Texido: On behalf of Labatt, we did not put out any information regarding these cans. But as they got in the market and hockey players discovered them, it started popping up everywhere on the internet – through social media, hockey blogs and all that. That’s really the best part of it. People discovered them and liked them enough to talk about them.
USA Hockey: What do you see happening in the future between these two partners?
Lisa Texido: I definitely see the relationship continuing. We want to continue to grow and evolve. I think these cans were a great example this year of the fact that we’ve just scratched the surface potentially on what else we could do. I’m excited to continue to talk to USA Hockey and brainstorm what other ideas we can do as a joint team to just keep promoting the game of hockey. We want to share our passion for the sport and we want to engage with other people that share that as well.