BOSTON (CN) – MillerCoors, the second-largest brewer in the United States, says the National Football League’s New England Patriots ditched an agreement to make it the team’s exclusive suds sponsor in favor of a “more lucrative” contract with its chief rival, leading brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
After 10 years as the Pats’ official malt beverage sponsor, the club abruptly halted an agreement their representatives promised was set, punctuated by a “Good to go!” email in May, according to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court.
The vice president of sales for the Patriots, Murray Kohl, and sales director, Joe Mariani, allegedly told MillerCoors’ agent, Todd Franks of Genesco Enterprises, in 2010 that the team was willing to go exclusive.
The hitch: the parties must agree on price and inventory. And, the Pats had a nonexclusive contract with Anheuser-Busch through February 2012.
Unfettered, the Patriots’ continued interest in MillerCoors led the parties to enter into an exclusive agreement on May 11, 2011, when Kohl allegedly sent Franks an email confirming that the agreement was “Good to go!”
In a separate message quoted in the complaint, Kohl said: “I am not one for long, rambling emails but this deal deserves it. One behalf of our entire organization, you have our promise that we will treat every asset and every dollar invested in us to go to work for MillerCoors. Needless to say, this was a collaborative effort and we are grateful to be working with such an outstanding individuals.”
MillerCoors says Patriots’ President Jonathan Kraft backed the agreement in a separate message the same day.
“We will kick-ass together,” Kraft allegedly said.
Another email, from MillerCoors Executive Vice President Andy England to Kohl, read: “I’m delighted that we’re getting married!”
Unfortunately, the once-happy never made it down the aisle. On May 31, 2011, Patriots representatives told MillerCoors that the company must abandon the exclusive agreement because it was obligated to negotiate with Anheuser-Busch based on prior right.
MillerCoors says that it demanded the contract be enforced on Aug. 12, 2011, following a lapse in contract talks between the Patriots and Anheuser-Busch, but the Pats nevertheless continued negotiating with its direct competitor.
Under the exclusive agreement, MillerCoors was to reign over the Pats recently expanded home marketing territory – a 75-mile radius surrounding Gillette Stadium that includes Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. The spread would give a “Patriots’ sponsor the ability to each a much broader and highly-coveted consumer market,” MillerCoors says.
In its 18-page complaint, MillerCoors called the Patriots “one of the oldest and most storied professional football franchises in the county.”
“The competitive American spirit that the Patriots team exemplifies compliment MillerCoors’ own reputation as a spirited American malt beverage producer,” it added.
MillerCoors’ products include economy beers Miller Genuine Draft and Keystone Light; mainstays Coors and Miller Lite; craft brew Leinenkugel’s and ever-hip Pabst Blue Ribbon.
A nonexclusive agreement between the Patriots and MillerCoors runs dry at the close of this season.
MillerCoors seeks an order to enforce their sponsorship agreement “in and after February 2012,” as well as unspecified damages for breach of contract.
It is represented by Nicholas Theodorou with Foley Hoag.