Brewers drop Klement’s as sponsor of Famous Racing Sausages

Sausage maker CEO says team abruptly cut off talks

Milwaukee-based Klement Sausage Co. is no longer the sponsor of the Famous Racing Sausages at Miller Park after the Milwaukee Brewers “abruptly and without explanation” cut off negotiations with the company, according to a letter that Tom Danneker, Klement president and chief executive officer, sent to employees Tuesday.

The Famous Racing Sausages, from left: Polish Sausage, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Italian Sausage and Hot Dog.

Klement had been the official hot dog provider of the Brewers for more than 25 years and Danneker’s letter pointed out the company was there “through the 100-loss seasons” and for playoff victories. The relationship between the two organizations evolved to include The Famous Racing Sausages and the race went from a video race on the scoreboard to a regular live mascot occurrence on the field.

“Alas, all good things come to an end, and the Brewers have decided to discontinue our partnership with them,” Danneker wrote.

He said the two sides had started their regular contract negotiations but the Brewers cut off talks.

“To our surprise, weeks later the Brewers informed us that they signed with another undisclosed company, and we would not have the opportunity to match the deal or negotiate,” Danneker wrote, calling the decision a “surprising and disappointing development.”

Brewers officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about ending the partnership with Klement’s or the new sponsor. Tuesday evening, the team issued this statement: “With the heat being turned up today as rumors simmer on the Brewers sausage category sponsorship, there has been speculation about the future of Milwaukee’s most legendary runners. The Famous Racing Sausages are a link to the Brewers past and present. Rest assured, they are also central to the future of the franchise. Stay tuned – more details to come soon.”

One seemingly obvious choice for the new sponsor would be Sheboygan Falls-based Johnsonville, which already has sponsorships at Lambeau Field and has sparred with Klement in court 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.

Johnsonville spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment on a potential sponsorship.

Milwaukee’s other major sausage maker, Fred Usinger Inc., would seem to be another possibility as a replacement sponsor for the sausage race. Brewers’ radio announcer Bob Uecker appears in Usinger advertising regularly and has since 1995. Company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The three sausage makers are all different sizes. Klement had about 400 employees in 2016 with plans to add another 50. Usinger has less than 200, according to its LinkedIn page. Johnsonville, meanwhile, is in the process of adding nearly 100 jobs as part of a headquarters expansion for which it could receive $10 million in state tax credits. To receive those credits the company has to retain the 937 jobs it has in the state.

Milwaukee-based Klement Sausage Co. is no longer the sponsor of the Famous Racing Sausages at Miller Park after the Milwaukee Brewers “abruptly and without explanation” cut off negotiations with the company, according to a letter that Tom Danneker, Klement president and chief executive officer, sent to employees Tuesday.

The Famous Racing Sausages, from left: Polish Sausage, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Italian Sausage and Hot Dog.

Klement had been the official hot dog provider of the Brewers for more than 25 years and Danneker’s letter pointed out the company was there “through the 100-loss seasons” and for playoff victories. The relationship between the two organizations evolved to include The Famous Racing Sausages and the race went from a video race on the scoreboard to a regular live mascot occurrence on the field.

“Alas, all good things come to an end, and the Brewers have decided to discontinue our partnership with them,” Danneker wrote.

He said the two sides had started their regular contract negotiations but the Brewers cut off talks.

“To our surprise, weeks later the Brewers informed us that they signed with another undisclosed company, and we would not have the opportunity to match the deal or negotiate,” Danneker wrote, calling the decision a “surprising and disappointing development.”

Brewers officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about ending the partnership with Klement’s or the new sponsor. Tuesday evening, the team issued this statement: “With the heat being turned up today as rumors simmer on the Brewers sausage category sponsorship, there has been speculation about the future of Milwaukee’s most legendary runners. The Famous Racing Sausages are a link to the Brewers past and present. Rest assured, they are also central to the future of the franchise. Stay tuned – more details to come soon.”

One seemingly obvious choice for the new sponsor would be Sheboygan Falls-based Johnsonville, which already has sponsorships at Lambeau Field and has sparred with Klement in court 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.

Johnsonville spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment on a potential sponsorship.

Milwaukee’s other major sausage maker, Fred Usinger Inc., would seem to be another possibility as a replacement sponsor for the sausage race. Brewers’ radio announcer Bob Uecker appears in Usinger advertising regularly and has since 1995. Company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The three sausage makers are all different sizes. Klement had about 400 employees in 2016 with plans to add another 50. Usinger has less than 200, according to its LinkedIn page. Johnsonville, meanwhile, is in the process of adding nearly 100 jobs as part of a headquarters expansion for which it could receive $10 million in state tax credits. To receive those credits the company has to retain the 937 jobs it has in the state.

Comments

  1. The Sheriff says:

    This might be more of a final penalty for Klements selling to a San Francisco PE firm and the Brewers wanting to maintain a relationship with a hometown company.

    I’m sure Johnsonville can take some of that sweet WEDC cash their received and put it to some high visibility sponsorship bucks.