Brewery, Bucs team up on marketing

| Friday, May 6, 2011

Anybody who's attended a Pirates game in recent years and wondered about the near absence of the locally brewed beer in the ballpark isn't alone.

"One of the things consumers have been telling us is that we need to be more prominent with all the city's sports teams," said Ed R. Lozano, the new CEO of Iron City Brewing Co.

On Thursday, the company and the Pirates announced a deal to "cross-market" the two iconic Pittsburgh brands, which includes the rights to use each other's name and logos in advertising and marketing materials "to drive business for each organization."

Iron City and the Pirates declined to reveal the financial terms of the agreement.

"In the past, Iron City was much more visible at the ballpark, but the brewery has had its challenges," Lozano said. "This agreement with the Pirates is our way of saying that we're back and that we want to invite people to reconnect with their hometown beer."

In March, a New York City private equity firm acquired Iron City Brewing nearly two years after the 150-year-old brand moved production from its original plant in Lawrenceville to a contract brewery in Latrobe.

The company changed hands in 2005 when its previous ownership group filed for bankruptcy protection because it owed $2.6 million in unpaid sewer and water bills to the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority.

Under yesterday's deal, Iron City will sponsor events including Skyblast Fireworks and concerts by "Huey Lewis & the News," ".38 Special" and "Train."

Iron City plans to use the Pirates logo in retail marketing material and on advertising placed on the back of delivery trucks and on billboards. Customers will have opportunities to win items such as tickets to sponsored events and team gear, Lozano said.

Plans are in the works to substantially increase advertising for Iron City -- and the availability of its beer -- inside the ballpark. Currently, Iron City is only sold by a handful of concession stands and roving vendors, said Matt Nordby, a team spokesman.

Lozano said he has been in discussions with the team's concessionaire, Aramark, to increase the availability of Iron City and IC Light in the ballpark.

"At the end of the day, they (Aramark) need to sell products that have consumer demand," Lozano said. "From a business standpoint, I think this agreement will help create that demand."

Pirates President Frank Coonelly praised the cross-marketing effort.

"The Pirates are very pleased to partner with Iron City and look forward to working with their new leadership on re-establishing the great partnership that existed for decades between our two organizations," he said in a statement.

The editor of a national magazine that tracks trends in the brewing industry likes the idea of cross-marketing brands.

"This kind of partnership strikes me as a no-brainer," said Julie Johnson, editor of All About Beer magazine in Durham, N.C.

"Who is going to be more loyal to a local brand of beer than the people who are already out at the ballpark to support the local team?"

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