Labatt, Molson to share Games

In an exceptional display of arm's-length co-operation, Canada's two biggest breweries have decided to share the Summer Olympics on the CTV Television Network.Molson Breweries and Labatt Breweries of Canada will have exclusive beer advertising rights on alternate days during the 16-day...

In an exceptional display of arm’s-length co-operation, Canada’s two biggest breweries have decided to share the Summer Olympics on the CTV Television Network.

Molson Breweries and Labatt Breweries of Canada will have exclusive beer advertising rights on alternate days during the 16-day Games in Barcelona.

Labatt began with the opening ceremonies July 25. Molson winds things up with the closing ceremonies Aug. 9.

Kate Potter, director of media for Labatt, says with advertising dollars getting tighter, the brewery decided the Olympics were not worth paying for category exclusivity.

Potter says Labatt is confident its advertising during the Games will deliver for the beer company during the key summer selling period.

She says the cost of ‘alternate exclusivity’ runs into the millions of dollars, but declines to be specific.

Potter is emphatic Labatt had no discussion with Molson about sharing the beer category during the Games.

Declined exclusivity

David Strickland, director of marketing for ctv’s sports properties, says Labatt declined to buy category exclusivity for these Olympics.

He says Labatt’s opportunity for exclusivity stemmed from a contract the network and the brewery signed for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

Potter says the brewery offered to pay ctv what it thought advertising rights for the Summer Games were worth and left it at that.

Strickland says to get what it was charging for beer category rights, ctv then approached Molson.

He says the company was receptive to sharing and a deal was struck.

‘Economics are forcing these things,’ he says.

Freda Colbourne, a spokeswoman for Molson, says the price tag for category exclusivity was ‘too rich for us, after we evaluated it.’

Instead the brewery went for a more modest package, including a special feature exclusive.

Colbourne says the Games’ highlight of the day will be sponsored by Molson, adding she is sure Labatt has a similar exclusive with the network.

Strickland, who spoke to Strategy just before he left for Barcelona, says there are 18-20 exclusive product advertising categories for these Games.

He says Coca-Cola has soft drink rights and Cara Operations – Harvey’s Restaurants, Swiss Chalet Chicken and Ribs restaurants – has the fast food category.

Colbourne is as emphatic as Potter that no discussion took place between Molson and the competition while beer category negotiating was going on.

Ads to run

She says during the Olympics, Molson will advertise top seller Canadian, Special Dry, and its Take Care responsible drinking program and some other spots.

Lauren Richards, media director at Cossette Communication-Marketing in Toronto, says the size and clout of Molson and Labatt must make arch rivals in other product categories seek their own similar co-operative deals.

As for any more category co-operation between Molson and Labatt, Colbourne and Potter are cautious.

Colbourne says any move would have to be evaluated when it is suggested soccer’s 1994 World Cup in the u.s. might be another opportunity for shared beer category advertising.

Potter says she cannot say if the practice will become more common; a lot depends on the Olympics.

However, she is certain hockey and baseball tv programming will not ever see shared category advertising.

Elsewhere, Labatt appears the winner in a bout of litigation with Molson and its u.s. partner, Miller Brewing, over Labatt Genuine Draft.

Two weeks ago, the Federal Court dismissed a Molson-Miller application for an injunction to stop the sale of the beer because it said the Labatt packaging and advertising was too much like Miller’s u.s. brand, Miller Genuine Draft.

Labatt President Hugo Powell trumpeted the Federal Court’s decision as a 100% victory.