MillerCoors, the joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Company, filed a lawsuit against the Patriots on Monday claiming the team reneged on an exclusive beer deal and instead signed an exclusive deal with competitor Anheuser-Busch InBev, according to CNBC.com.
The Patriots have been sponsored by MillerCoors for just under a decade after Coors Light became the NFL's official beer starting with the 2002-03 season. Starting with this season, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light became the official beer of the league after the company paid a reported $200 million a year for the next six years.
Despite the label as the NFL's official beer, companies can negotiate their own deals with teams. MillerCoors said it negotiated an exclusive deal with the Patriots that would go into effect at the end of the 2011 season and run through 2019.
Instead of following through on the commitment, MillerCoors claims the team backed out of the already-signed contract and instead signed a seven-year deal with Anheuser-Busch InBev.
The lawsuit, claiming a breach of contract, was filed in Massachusetts Superior Court on Monday and asks that the original exclusive deal between MillerCoors and the Patriots be ruled valid and enforceable. In addition, the plaintiff seeks additional damages to compensate for costs and good will.
"We expect to win and when we win we will be a great partner to the Patriots," MillerCoors vice president of media and marketing services Jackie Woodward told CNBC.com. "We look forward to bringing our marketing muscle and activation prowess to bringing football to fans in New England."
The deal could have further marketing appeal than in years past. MillerCoors said it was told by the team that the NFL Board of Governors agreed to expand each team's definition of "Home Marketing Territory." The original Home Marketing Territory was Massachusetts and a 75-mile radius around Gillette Stadium, but now the territory could expand farther into the New England states of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
MillerCoors is no stranger to the sports business world. The Molson family, which owns and founded Molson beer and merged with Coors Brewing Company, bought the NHL's Montreal Canadiens in 2009. MillerCoors also has an exclusive deal with the Cowboys, Vikings, Bears and Packers and non-exclusive deals with 17 other NFL teams.
Currently, the Patriots have non-exclusive deals with MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Boston Beer, the parent company of Sam Adams.