In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

A-B InBev Teams with Jay-Z & Hollywood to Rule Your Entertainment Experience

BudweiserMIAAugust 28, 2012
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian beer conglomerate, recently announced that it will team with Hollywood heavyweights Jay-Z, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer this fall to produce a film based on the Budweiser "Made in America" concert festival event. Both the festival and the movie will prominently feature Budweiser as its chief sponsor and financial backer. 
Why is A-B InBev so interested in the entertainment industry? According to Budweiser U.S. Marketing VP Paul Chibe, it’s because “the way that Budweiser remains an icon is to be a force in pop culture.“ Therefore, he continues, “things like this are exactly the kinds of things that brands like Budweiser should do.” Apparently, A-B InBev isn’t satisfied with Budweiser as the King of Beers–it wants to expand its rule to the movie world, too. And with their credentials as Academy Award-winning directors and producers, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are just the Hollywood royalty to make it so.
Budweiser’s distinct strategy is to carve its brand so deeply into popular culture that all Americans will automatically consider beer as a normal accompaniment to every enjoyable activity--particularly youth, who love and have disposable income for both concerts and movies. The alcohol industry, led by A-B InBev, has already staked its claim on sports sponsorship, advertising and branding – and with Jay-Z, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer's help is now exponentially expanding its influence into all corners of our lives.  

Snoop Dogg: New Name, New Outlook?

August 7, 2012

Snoop LionRap superstar Snoop Dogg claims to have recently experienced a spiritual awakening in Jamaica while making a reggae album and converting to Rastafarianism. Under the new moniker "Snoop Lion," the artist says he is tired of rap and wants to make reggae music that even "children and grandparents can listen to." Evidently, he now wants to be a positive influence on the African-American community as well: 

"I'm a natural leader…when I do right it makes people around me want to do right. When I do wrong I can make a nation of people do wrong."

Grandiose, sure, yet probably on the mark. Snoop and his music have an enormous influence on youth--especially African-American youth--who are already specifically targeted by the alcohol industry with a variety of tactics. Songs such as Snoop's "Gin and Juice" contribute directly to the overexposure of youth of color to alcohol promotion. Snoop also serves as the spokesperson for Blast by Colt45 (Pabst), an alcopop with 12% alcohol by volume in one single-serving, 24-ounce can, the equivalent of nearly 5 drinks.  

Snoop's Blast ads and promotional materials clearly target young African-Americans and associate alcohol use with wealth, attractiveness, and power. And Pabst wouldn't pay for such advertising if it didn't work: Youth exposed to alcohol ads are more likely to drink, and to drink more once they've started; those who drink are more likely to develop alcohol dependence as an adult. Youth in markets with greater alcohol advertising expenditures drink more as well.

Snoop Lion renounces guns on his new album because of the tragic effects of gun violence in the community. But what about the multitude of harms from alcohol in that very same community? African Americans suffer disproportionately from alcohol-related disease and violence, and alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death among African-American youth: homicide, unintentional injuries, and suicide. Maybe Snoop's next release will mention alcohol-related harm instead of brands.

Regardless of which name he's using, Snoop has a responsibility to his community. We hope he's serious about making a commitment to his community and not just staging a marketing ploy. We also hope his new spiritual awakening will shine some light on the harm he contributes by associating himself with alcohol products and dangerous drinking behaviors.

Snoop Lion: If you want to be a positive influence and a "natural leader," stop taking money from Pabst and hawking alcohol products that hurt youth. They have to be alive in order to buy your music.

Bud Light and UFC Push Beer to Kids with Comics

UFCFacebookComicJuly 17, 2012

Anheuser-Busch InBev must enjoy pointedly flaunting all semblance of advertising “self-regulation” – the toothless, voluntary guidelines that alcohol producers and their trade groups insist that they follow. In fact, the ads promoting A-B InBev sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are a slap in the face to A-B InBev's constant claims about its efforts to “ensure that our communication and marketing activities do not contribute to the misuse of our products, and are not, for instance, directed at people under the legal drinking age.”  

So how does a company that says it's committed to not advertising to kids choose to spend millions of its marketing dollars? Get this: comic strips, posted on Facebook, targeting fans of mixed-martial arts fighting, also known as Ultimate Fighting Championships. As the primary sponsor of the brutal and offensive UFC, A-B InBev gets the Bud Light logo delivered directly to the computer screens of millions of kids worldwide. Moreover, they use the quintessential child-friendly format of comic strips to do it. The only way they could top this direct advertising to youth is if they plastered Sponge Bob SquarePants’ picture on Bud Light cans.

In keeping with the voluntary self-regulation facade, the comic strips promoted on the UFC’s Facebook page to its more than 9 million fans are plastered with the Bud Light logo. In addition to the 45% of Facebook users age 25 or younger, UFC President Dana White has made it clear he wants kids watching the UFC. He and his brand target children with UFC trading cards and action figures sold in stores like Toys R Us, as well as suggestive television commercials that promote youth viewership. Between the UFC audience, the youth of Facebook users, and the use of comic strip media, A-B InBev has found the "ultimate" trifecta of factors to ensure that the Bud Light brand and messages reach as many potential young males and minority youth as possible.
Thankfully, some powerful groups have taken notice of A-B InBev sponsorship of UFC and called out both of the corporations for targeting children with inappropriate and harmful ads. The Culinary Workers Union recently sent a forceful letter to A-B InBev expressing disgust at the company’s “socially irresponsible behavior,” demanding that the company “take immediate action and sever its sponsorship of the UFC.” So far, there has been no response from the world’s largest beer maker. So much for self-regulation.