Although university administrators claim financial stability in this unpredictable economy to our strict fiscal conservatism, the university is taking advantage of overstretched government regulations to interfere with a particular private market. The university has now publicly joined SMU and other universities in Texas and around the nation in protest of Bud Light’s “Fan Cans” promotion.
The 27 different can designs feature colors of the local colleges around the area they are sold. While each university conveys its concerns slightly differently, there are essentially two complaints.
First, the colleges actually claim that using their colors on beer cans infringes upon the copyright and branding efforts of that school. According to an article in the Star-Telegram, Lisa Albert, associate director of communications, said, “Because we often use color to build our brand, we do not want TCU students, parents of TCU students and stakeholders of the university to think we support this program.”
I refuse to believe that when the TCU community sees purple and white, they automatically assume TCU supports that product. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop gets away with selling purple and white T-shirts that read, “If it looks like a taco and smells like a fish, it’s got to be a tasty dish.”
Not to mention, thousands of non-licensed products are sold near any college with decent athletics – it’s extremely common and shouldn’t be considered problematic.
Secondly, opposed schools claim the cans might promote underage drinking. The effectiveness of this protest is likely why Anheuser-Busch agreed to discontinue the promotion in communities that have voiced concern. In reality, accessibility of alcohol combined with the tradition of drinking in college is more threatening than familiar colors on a beer can.
This issue has raised enough attention for the Federal Trade Commission to become involved.
According to an Associated Press interview, Janet Evans, senior attorney with the FTC who oversees advertising, found the promotion violates the stipulation that at least 70 percent of the target audience for an ad campaign should be those over 21. In other words, the minimum legal drinking age is so unenforceable that alcohol manufacturers can legally market almost one-third of their products to people who can’t legally purchase them.
By using the power of government regulation, these colleges are undermining the free-market efforts of a slumping company – Anheuser-Busch in this case. The creative and unique advertising effort was introduced by Anheuser-Busch after seeing a 1.5 percent decrease in beer sales in the entire brewing market in the second quarter.
Rather than bullying a particular alcohol manufacturer, maybe colleges should address the real problem. Colleges and police are being asked to enforce an unenforceable law. News reports have consistently shown the ineffectiveness of preventing 18- to 20-year-olds from consuming alcohol.
Instead of complaining about “Fan Cans,” colleges should be pressuring the federal government to lower the drinking age to the more reasonable 18. Luckily, this effort already exists in the Amethyst Initiative. Started by Dr. John McCardell, founder of Choose Responsibility, the initiative essentially states that the current drinking age is ineffective and needs to be rethought. The initiative has been signed by 135 college and university presidents and chancellors. I certainly hope I see the day Chancellor Boschini signs the Amethyst Initiative – it would be far better than a press release from our director of communications pointing a finger at the advertising campaign of a single beer company.
John Andrew Willis is a junior environmental science major from Dallas.