Take my Mike’s, please. Labatt gets into the comedy game

It’s been a while since two guys walked into a bar. That’s why Mike’s Hard Lemonade is targeting housebound consumers with a new online marketing series called “Open Mike’s Comedy.”

The Labatt Breweries of Canada brand officially launched the five-part series on its YouTube channel on Tuesday. The program was developed in partnership with its lead agency partner FCB Canada and longtime event partner Live Nation Canada.

The series is part of what Labatt’s vice-president of marketing Todd Allen describes as a “renewed focus” on the Mike’s brand. It’s also part of a broader focus on the company’s “beyond beer” portfolio, which includes other ready-to-drink products like Palm Bay and Nutrl Vodka Soda.

Comedy and Mike’s are a natural fit, says Allen. “Ever since its inception…[Mike’s] has always had a jester attitude and been a bit of a disruptor when it came to its communications and tone, so we’re just pulling on the history of being a bit playful and not taking ourselves too seriously.”

The series features renowned comedians hanging out (socially distanced, of course) and answering rapid-fire questions such as “Did you have a career back-up before becoming a successful comedian?” and “Have you ever taken a heckler to heart?” The first two featured comedians are K. Trevor Wilson & Arthur Simeon.

The series is part of a broader content strategy by Labatt that includes initiatives like Budweiser Stage at Home and the Twitch live-streaming highlights show Game Over with Bud Light.

“It continues to be a focus for us to connect with consumers in new ways,” says Allen. “The mantra I have with my team is ‘Stop interrupting people and start entertaining them.'”

The goal with “Open Mike’s Comedy” is to increase reach, brand affinity and drive trial among Mike’s core target audience of young men from legal drinking age to 29.

The new series is also promoting two new Mike’s Hard products: A cooler called Mike’s Hard Blue Freeze product, which launched this summer and which Allen says has been a “runaway success,” and Mike’s 0g Harder Sparkling Water, a sugar-free product that is a new entrant in the vodka and soda category.

Allen says the arrival of COVID forced Labatt to abandon its marketing plans and pivot towards a marketing approach that addresses in-home entertaining and people’s thirst for content during the self-isolation period.

“We saw a huge opportunity in home entertaining and socializing, as well as the relax and unwind occasion, so we built custom programs using our portfolio to address all of those occasions,” says Allen.

Mike’s is one of the trailblazers in the ready-to-drink category and possesses considerable brand appeal, says Allen when asked to explain the rationale for the renewed marketing push.

“It was the brand that created the ready-to-drink segment in Canada, and it’s got a lot of equity and nostalgia [among] consumers and we just needed to bring a little more focus to it,” he says.

The campaign comes as Mike’s faces a new challenge in the hard seltzer category from White Claw, which arrived in Canada to considerable fanfare earlier this year. White Claw was started by Anthony von Mandl, who launched Mike’s in 1996 and sold the brand—along with other ready-to-drink beverages—to Labatt for $466 million in 2015.

Chris Powell