In the Doghouse

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.