SBD/Issue 236/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

A-B Ends Some Bud Light "Fan Cans" Promotions Amid Complaints

Wisconsin, Iowa State Among
Schools Objecting To Promo
A-B InBev is "dropping its 'Fan Cans' promotions from communities across the country, where colleges have complained" that the effort "promotes underage drinking and infringes on trademarks," according to Emily Fredrix of the AP. The promotion "puts school colors on Bud Light cans and was launched to coincide with the start of football season." The FTC "discussed the issue with the brewer," and FTC attorney Janet Evans said that regulators were "concerned that cans will be marketed to fans under the legal drinking age of 21." It is not known how many colleges are involved, and it is "also unclear how many schools are objecting." About 25 colleges represented by Collegiate Licensing Co. sent A-B "formal letters asking it to stop the program at their campuses," and A-B said that it is "listening to the complaints." A-B VP/Corporate Social Responsibility Carol Clark in a statement said, "Certain cans are not being made available in communities where organizations asked us not to offer them" (AP, 8/25).

CREATES A BAD ASSOCIATION: In Madison, Deborah Ziff reports an attorney for Univ. of Wisconsin last week sent a letter to A-B objecting to any effort to sell "Wisconsin beer cans adorned with the University of Wisconsin's red and white team colors." The school argued that the promotion would "create an association" between A-B and UW sports teams that does not exist. A-B promised to "end the 'Fan Cans' program in the area so as to avoid a dispute" with the school, but the brewer said that it "stands by its legal right to market Bud Light in cans with color combinations also used" by colleges (WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, 8/26). A-B said that the cans "would not be distributed in the community," though it is unclear whether the community "meant Madison, Dane County or the state" (JSONLINE.com, 8/25). A-B has also pulled its Univ. of Minnesota-themed cans after UM News Service Dir Daniel Wolter said the school sent a letter claiming the promo "was an infringement of U of M trademarks and that we objected to it" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/26).

MORE OBJECTIONS COMING: Iowa State Univ. and Univ. of Iowa officials said that they will "write letters that object to the brewer's use of their school colors to sell cans of Bud Light." Retailers said that the "Fan Cans" have been a "hit among students" at the two schools (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/26). Oklahoma State Univ. Dir of Communications Gary Shutt, whose school also protested the promo, said, "Color matters when it comes to marketing and packaging. People in Oklahoma connect OSU with orange" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 8/26).

UPPING THE ANTE: BRAND REPUBLIC's Matt Williams reports A-B has named DDB as the "lead global ad agency for its Budweiser brand." DDB, whose Chicago office already handles Budweiser creative in the U.S., will be "responsible for helping to raise the popularity of the brand in markets where it holds a smaller presence, such as in mainland Europe and parts of Asia" (BRANDREPUBLIC.com, 8/26).

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