SBD/Issue 233/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Many Schools Challenging A-B's New College-Friendly Promotion

New Bud Light Cans Feature
Local Colleges' Team Colors
Dozens of colleges are "up in arms over a new Anheuser-Busch marketing campaign that features Bud Light beer cans emblazoned with local schools' team colors," according to a front-page piece by John Hechinger of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Many college officials contend that the promotions near campuses will "contribute to underage and binge drinking and give the impression that the colleges are endorsing the brew." Marketing for the promotion, which involves 27 different color combinations that debuted this month, encourages students to "show your true colors with Bud Light." While some schools "aren't interfering with the promotion, others are demanding that the sales be stopped." College Licensing Co. General Counsel Bruce Siegal said that his company complained to A-B about "potential trademark violations after being notified about the campaign." Siegal indicated that at least 25 different colleges have formally requested that the brewer "drop the campaign near their campuses." The Univ. of Michigan in a letter "threatened legal action for alleged trademark infringement, demanding that Anheuser-Busch not sell the 'maize and blue' cans in the 'entire state.'" The Univ. of Colorado, Oklahoma St. Univ., Texas A&M and Boston College also have told A-B to "stop distribution near their campuses, citing trademark issues and concern about student alcohol use." Administrators at other schools are "still debating the proper way to approach" the promotion. LSU and Univ. of Texas health officials said that they "oppose the Bud Light campaign, but administrators have allowed it." LSU Dir of Trademark Licensing Brian Hommel said the school is "keeping a close eye" on how the Bud Light promotion is marketed locally. Hommel: "It needs to be quite clear that it's not an LSU product" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/21).

IOWA SCHOOLS DEALING WITH ISSUE: In Des Moines, Gunnar Olson cites Iowa State Univ. (ISU) and Univ. of Iowa reps as saying that school officials are "looking into" the A-B issue, though neither school "offered a specific course of action." ISU Exec Dir of University Relations John McCarroll said of the A-B campaign, "I just want to make it clear. It's not ours. We didn't endorse this. We weren't consulted about it by Anheuser-Busch or any other beer company." Univ. of Iowa faculty athletics rep Elizabeth Altmaier: "There may not be a tiger hawk on the can, but it's clearly meant for fans of U of I athletics, and that is not the message we wish to send." ISU Senior Associate AD for External Relations Frank Nogel said that A-B "has paid for the right to use Iowa State's logo in other promotional materials, such as store signs or posters." Olson notes it was "not immediately clear if the company had a similar deal" with Iowa. Meanwhile, Campustown Liquor Manager Rich Parizek, whose store is near the ISU campus, said the custom cans have been "selling like hotcakes" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/21).

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