Labatt 50 ‘rebrands’ for Canada’s anniversary

The beer born to celebrate one anniversary waves the flag for Canada 150.

Following in the footsteps of those who’ve “rebranded” to take part in a timely moment, Labatt Breweries of Canada has temporarily renamed its Labatt 50 ale in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Limited numbers of “Labatt 150 Anniversay Ale” cans are now appearing on store shelves in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland.

The special packaging, which has inserted the number “1″ and a maple leaf in front of the beer’s name, comes in six- and 15-packs of 355 ml cans and 24-packs of the tall-boy 473 ml cans.

“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.”

Labatt 50 was originally called Anniversary Ale when it launched in 1950 to celebrate the anniversary of John and Hugh Labatt’s partnership running the business founded by their grandfather, John K. Labatt.

The beer maker has an anniversary of its own this year as well as it celebrates 170 years in Canada. Oosterhuis says more of its overall marketing focus lies there, with messaging around the corporate anniversary expected to land in the fall. Beyond a project that’s in the works from Labatt Blue, Oosterhuis doesn’t expect any other major Canada 150 projects to emerge from the company’s portfolio (which also includes Kokanee, Budweiser and Alexander Keith’s, among others).

The “Anniversary Ale” effort will see some support from PR and digital spending, but the temporary redesign got an inadvertent boost from a prominent Canadian before it was even announced. On April Fool’s Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a photoshopped image of a bottle of 50 changed to say 150 on the label, saying it was his favourite beer.

“He did that not knowing that we were actually planning to do this,” Oosterhuis said.