In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse: A-B InBev Talks, But No Walk

October 7, 2014

After initially remaining silent as videos of NFL players committing acts of domestic violence became public over the last few weeks, National Football League (NFL) sponsor A-B InBev issued a public statement about its conversations with the league. The statement was a public relations masterpiece, effectively placating consumers without actually committing to, or describing, any decisive action. Indeed, the $1.2 billion official NFL sponsorship remains intact - with no threat or even hint that it would be pulled.

While one might take the A-B InBev statement to mean the company is genuinely concerned about the NFL shrugging off its players' inexcusable behavior, there is no denying the need for A-B InBev to manage the message sent by its lack of response. Its eventual statement will most likely have a positive impact on perceptions of the corporate NFL sponsor, rather than interfere with the profits it reaps through NFL sponsorship.

In fact, the A-B InBev statement to the NFL was almost a word-for-word rehash of its 2012 statement to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) regarding public homophobic and misogynistic rants from its fighters, vaguely threatening to act if the UFC didn't get its athletes to behave better (or at least, not do it in public). Just as with the recent statement to the NFL, A-B InBev made no indication that its sponsorship of UFC pay-per-view broadcasts was on the line, even as it sponsored female UFC athletes, who deserved a far more substantial response.

A-B InBev stated that the behaviors by UFC fighters are "in no way...reflective of the company or its values," and that the NFL player behavior "goes against our own company and moral code." Sounds like the A-B InBev moral code and values means protecting its profits while providing lip service rather than action to condemn homophobia, misogyny, and domestic violence. As Houston Texans running back Arian Foster described in his refreshing rebuke of the hypocrisy: A-B InBev is "selling poison on that high horse."

A-B InBev Hijacks Colorado Town for Giant Beer Ad

September 17, 2014

Right on the heels of the last In The Doghouse, in which we slammed A-B InBev for bullying national governments into changing alcohol laws for its World Cup sponsorship campaigns, the company at it again. This time, it hijacked Crested Butte, a small Colorado town, turning it into a giant Bud Light ad and throwing an alcohol-fueled party right in the middle of town. Many residents weren't so hot on the idea of having their streets painted blue and 1000 partiers flown in, provided with unlimited alcohol, and given the run of the town, but residents weren't consulted in the matter.

The deal for the event, called "Whatever, USA," was a sneaky, under the table negotiation between A-B InBev and the town's mayor, Aaron Huckstep. When residents found out and protested, A-B InBev simply doubled its original offer to $500,000-chump change for the company. A-B InBev seems to believe it can simply buy the right to strain public resources, inconvenience residents, and turn a town into a giant promotion for a harmful product, whether residents want it or not.

Bud Light marketing director David Daniels, bragging about the town takeover publicity stunt, explained "We believe our consumers like us to do big and bold things." (If you live in the town or don't happen to be a Bud Light consumer, apparently your opinion doesn't count.) Anheuser-Bush spokesman Nick Kelly stated, "For a town that doesn't want us here, they ran through those wristbands pretty quickly." With telling arrogance, Kelly and Daniels blame the town and its residents for A-B InBev's takeover. It's the same old industry theme - blame those who get hurt or don't like what industry does, rather than standing accountable for the harm it causes.

If centering an entire weekend-long town party around a single alcoholic beverage brand seems acceptable, imagine a town hosting a similar "Camel Lights" weekend with inflatable Joe Camels all over town and unlimited cigarettes provided to the young partiers. If normalizing excessive consumption still doesn't seem like a problem, consider the harm statistics. One in 6 U.S. adults now engages in regular binge drinking, and alcohol consumption now accounts for 1 in 10 deaths among U.S. working-age adults. The economic harm totals $223.5 billion in the U.S. each year. Whether the takeover involves painting a town blue, or millions in political contributions and lobbying, A-B InBev is all about domination  - of revenue and profits.   

A-B InBev Steamrolls National Policy for World Cup Sales

August 24, 2014

Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B InBev) is on a roll: it reaped huge profits from a worldwide surge in alcohol consumption prompted by its official sponsorship of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. This, after A-B InBev and FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) strongarmed Brazil to change its laws banning alcohol sales at sports stadiums for the World Cup, despite protests from the Brazilian government and its people.

The extent of A-B InBev's penetration into the World Cup experience was unprecedented. An Out-Of-Home (OOH) "Rise as One" advertising campaign via ClearChannel ensured constant exposure to Budweiser marketing and promotion, making the event inseparable from the Budweiser brand for all fans and viewers, including millions of youth.

A-B InBev's political might shows no sign of losing steam. For the 2018 World Cup, A-B InBev and FIFA have now cajoled Russia into reversing a 2012 ban on alcohol advertising that was adopted as part of former President Medvedev's 2009 strategy to fight rampant alcohol problems in the country. Russians will now be exposed to alcohol advertising on TV and in stadiums until the 2018 World Cup concludes. But what's a country's health and safety compared to record beer sales?