A-B "Fan Can" Slam Heats Up

FILED AUGUST 25, 2009

Dear Client:

The heat is getting turned up as A-B's so-called "Fan Can" promotion, which has Bud Light cans appearing in college team colors, gets special scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission. Everybody likes getting attention, but perhaps this is the exception. Senior FTC attorney Janet Evans -- just days after she appeared as a friendly guest speaker at the Beer Institute meeting in Chicago, and just days after your editor defended industry responsibility practices as "best-of-class" at the very same meeting with Ms Evans present -- is criticizing A-B's Fan Can promotion. Janet tells the Wall Street Journal this morning that she has "grave concern" that the campaign could encourage underage and binge drinking on college campuses. "This does not appear to be responsible activity. We're looking at this closely. We've talked to the company and expressed our concerns." Local paper editorial boards haven't been friendly to the campaign either, with the Iowa State Daily saying the promo sends an "unhealthy message." "Those are our colors. That's our school being represented. On beer cans," it says derisively.

A-B vp corporate responsibility (the "better world" part of their slogan), Carol Clark said the company told the FTC that the Fan Cans will be sold only at retailers whose customers are 21 years and older, and they've stopped distributing the cans around colleges that have formally complained.

To complicate matters, the legal counsel of Licensing Resource Group said dozens of its members have complained to local beer distributors. Colleges protesting the promo are the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Boston College and New York's Stony Brook University. Other schools like the University of Texas and Louisiana State University don't have a problem with it, says the Journal.

Janet Evans of the FTC conceded that it's too late to stop the promo now. "We would certainly hope that something like this never happens again," she said. That's a pretty clear message. Janet did say that she is concerned about sports sponsorships by beer companies. We may have invited this scrutiny.

Until tomorrow, Harry

"Tough times never last, but tough people do."
-Robert Schuller

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