Sheboygan Falls-based Johnsonville will be the official sausage of the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2018 season, replacing Klement's and marking a change in the sponsor of the team’s Famous Racing Sausages and concession offerings in Miller Park.
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The Brewers' Famous Racing Sausages.[/caption]
The organizations did not disclose terms of the multi-year deal, but did say Johnsonville would have naming rights to the club-level all-inclusive area in the right field stands at Miller Park previously known as the Dew Deck and will bring an interactive experience to tailgating areas in addition to sponsoring the sausage race and providing the sausages served at concession stands.
“We thank the Brewers organization for choosing to partner with a family-owned and operated Wisconsin brand,” said Shelly Stayer, Johnsonville owner. “Their decision confirms the fact they want their fans to have an exceptional stadium experience.”
Stephanie Dlugopolski, a Johnsonville spokesperson, said the company has "always been interested" in partnering with Wisconsin teams.
"It's been our policy to check in with the Brewers periodically to see if the sponsorship was available for discussion as we've been interested in returning as a partner," Dlugopolski said in an email.
The Brewers had a sponsorship deal with Milwaukee-based Klement Sausage Co. for the last 25 years. Tom Danneker, Klement chief executive officer, sent a letter to company employees on Tuesday informing them the team had “abruptly and without explanation”
cut off negotiations for a new deal.
Danneker went on to say the Brewers informed Klement a few weeks later the team had a deal with a new sponsor and the company would not have an opportunity to match the offer.
News of Danneker’s letter set off speculation about who the new sponsor would be and questions about the future of the Famous Racing Sauages, which started in the 1990s and developed into a staple of baseball games at Miller Park.
Johnsonville, which has more than double the number of employees as Klement and a larger national footprint, seemed like an obvious choice. Johnsonville is a larger company and has also been engaged in a series of legal battles with Klement in recent years.
Klement sued Johnsonville in 2015 over a trademark for the term Backyard Bratwurst. That case was settled with Johnsonville blocked from using “Backyard Grilled Brat” or any similar term.
Less than a year after the trademark case was settled, Johnsonville sued Klement over the shape of its packaging, alleging it was too similar to a curved design it had developed. The case is still ongoing with lawyers for both sides trading letters over the exchange of information as recently as December.
A press release from the Brewers and Johnsonville did not specifically address the reason for the switch. It did note Johnsonville was previously the official sausage of the Brewers from 1978 to 1988.
“Great food is one of the most memorable parts of the baseball-fan experiencece, which is why we’re thrilled to bring Johnsonville back to the Brewers,” said Ryan Pociask, Johnsonville vice president of marketing.
Rick Schlesinger, Brewers chief operating officer, said the two organizations are “Wisconsin heritage brands."
“We are excited to announce a partnership that will bring the two organizations together at Miller Park,” Schlesinger said. “Sausage and baseball are staples of the summer in Wisconsin, and we’ll be joining forces to continue elevating the Miller Park experience.”
Becca Herrmann, a Klement spokesperson, issued a statement Wednesday reacting to the Johnsonville sponsorship:
"As Major League Baseball becomes more and more about making money and maximizing profits, it's not surprising that the Brewers chose to go with a national brand over the hometown company. While we valued our 25-year partnership with the Brewers, we're proud to still be the hometown sausage company with a focus on quality over quantity. We will continue to literally hit it out of the park for our loyal customers," Herrmann said.
"Klement's is able to deepen our ties with Milwaukee in new ways by entering into more community partnerships, which we are excited to announce soon. In the meantime, Brewers fans know they can still enjoy our sausages anywhere a grill can be found," she said.