Demonstrating the growing popularity of craft beer, Lagunitas Brewing Co. has replaced Anheuser-Busch InBev as the official beer of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn.

A-B has sponsored the USSA since 1995.

Lagunitas will use the partnership to support its growth ambitions and engage employees. The company, which began brewing beer in a kitchen in Northern California in 1993, is expanding its footprint in the U.S. and beyond.

“From actually getting beers into bottles and onto the streets, Lagunitas looks to the future. From expanding Petaluma Brewery to building a second in Chicago and soon a third in Azusa, Calif., to bringing our flagship IPA across the pond, Lagunitas could probably make a good beer on the moon,” said Jeremy Grenert, director of field marketing with Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Craft breweries captured 11 percent share of the U.S. beer market in 2014, the first time volume has reached the double digits, according to the Brewers Assn., a trade group that represents small and independent American brewers.

Mike Jaquet, USSA chief marketing officer, initially approached MillerCoors following news of Anheuser-Busch’s impending departure.

“They had a brand that made sense, but the more we explored craft beers, the more we got positive feedback about the USSA’s ability to move the needle on their business.”

The partnership allows the USSA to be one of the largest properties in the Lagunitas portfolio as opposed to being one of many with a mass-market brand, he said.

“I wanted a brand where we would be one of the biggest partnerships, and we found Lagunitas.”

The three-year tie affords category exclusivity, access to USSA imagery for on- and off-premise promotions and pouring rights at USSA’s 25 events. The USSA also will work with the brewer to access pouring opportunities at related events.

“At the end of the day they’re trying to get more handles in bars and a larger share of voice in the refrigerator aisle.”

Lagunitas kicked off the partnership last month at the USSA sponsor summit in Park City, Utah.

The sponsorship is not Lagunitas’ first foray into the world of skiing. The company in 2011 announced a four-year, six-figure partnership with USA Ski Jumping, a tie that afforded a presence at domestic ski jumping events, co-branded apparel, a co-branded beer and logo usage via digital and social media.

On the regional front, Lagunitas focuses on sports teams and venues located near its breweries in Chicago and Petaluma, Calif. Ties include the San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks, Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Fire.

Lagunitas tries to put a personal touch on each partnership. For example, the brewery activates the San Francisco Giants by hosting Orange Friday happy hour events at AT&T Park.

“We try to bring a little bit of Lagunitas to Giants fans before the games,” said Grenert, noting that the events include live music and circus acts.

James “Jimmy” Jacobs, Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s director of national sponsorships and events, oversees national ties and proprietary events.

SPONSORSHIP ACTIVITY IN THE CRAFT BEER CATEGORY
SPONSORSHIP ACTIVITY IN THE CRAFT BEER CATEGORY