Fan Can Controversy: Much Ado About Nothing?

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College officials across the country are objecting to Anheuser-Busch’s most recent marketing campaign whereby team colors, though not the name of the school or the school’s logo, are appearing on cans of Bud Light in their respective markets. For example, if you live in the upstate region of South Carolina, you can buy a six pack of Bud Light featuring the orange and white colors worn by the Clemson Tigers. Head closer to Columbia and the Bud Light offerings are maroon and white, not quite the garnet and black sported by the USC Gamecocks, but close enough.

beerWell, college administrators are in a tizzy over a program that they claim promotes underage drinking on campus as well as infringes on school trademarks. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten involved too, telling the beer producer that they would like to have the campaign stopped, although the FTC may not have the legal standing to do so. To date, some 27 different color can combinations have been created, with most of the schools registering their complaints directly to Anheuser-Busch.

The Anheuser-Busch campaign kicked in just weeks before the 2009 college football season launches and at about the same time as when students are returning to campus. Oddly, though charges of promoting underage drinking are being levied, only students who are aged 21 and older are legally permitted to drink. If underage students are taking a swig, then the problem rests with retailers – not with distributors and certainly not with the schools.

I’ve been following the controversy since it erupted and believe that the schools are raising a stink for no good reason. The Bud Light cans don’t have the school’s name or logo on them, though it is easy to figure out whose cans go with what school, especially when sold in the intended market. However, by shining the light on the “fan can” controversy, schools are unwittingly providing marketing ammunition for Anheuser-Busch. Better to let the campaign die then to encourage customers to run out and stock up while supplies last, exactly what many Bud Light devotees are doing right now.

As far as underaged drinking goes, perhaps lowering the drinking age to eighteen makes the most sense. If “kids” are old enough to vote, go off to war, get married, etc., but can’t drink, just maybe we’re not trusting them to be responsible for other important decisions that they must make in life.

Adv. — Go, Team! No matter what school you attend or plan on attending, school spirit is an important motivator as you seek to get better grades and to connect with your classmates. For some students, attending the college of their choice is beyond their family’s financial ability to cover costs which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for each academic year. Savvy students know that applying for college scholarships is one form of student aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. Have you applied yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

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