Crimson and blue Bud Light cans on the shelves of Lawrence liquor stores have Kansas University officials seeing red.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has been marketing Bud Light “Fan Cans” — special beer cans distributed in the colors of major universities — in college communities across the nation, but many schools have complained.
Add KU to that list, said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director, who said that KU wrote to A-B about three weeks ago to try to prevent the cans from appearing in Lawrence.
“We wrote to Anheuser-Busch requesting that they not move forward with that project,” Marchiony said. “I think the major issue is that it appeals to what we think is a large number of underage drinkers. We think that’s a mistake on Anheuser-Busch’s part.”
Though the use of color alone does not violate any licensing regulations, Marchiony said the school was concerned with the use of the red and blue colors as it may indicate to someone that the school was somehow involved in the promotion.
However, he said that issue was secondary to the school’s concern that the cans promoted underage drinking, Marchiony said.
Marchiony said KU continues to look into the issue, and is also in the middle of discussions on how to address it on a local level. He said he had seen that the beer company was going to honor the requests of institutions that elected to not be a part of the marketing effort.
“I think that Anheuser-Busch will respect our wishes, and we’ll talk to them,” he said.
Kansas State officials say they won't join the protest. Pat Bosco, dean of student life, says the university would object if the cans carried a Kansas State logo or picture. But he says the university "doesn't have a trademark" on the colors purple and white.
Mike Strano, manager at the Cork & Barrel near 23rd and Iowa streets, said the store got a shipment of the new blue-and-red cans on Friday.
He said, however, he didn’t anticipate that the cans would be around for very long, referencing the national response he’s seen on the issue.
Strano said he didn’t notice any uptick in sales directly tied to the beer cans.
“It’s football season,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily helping their sales.”
Kevin O’Malley, owner of the local Bud Light distributor O’Malley Beverage of Kansas, directed all questions on the promotion to A-B InBev’s corporate offices.
In a written statement, Carol Clark, Anheuser-Busch vice president of corporate social responsibility, said the marketing plan was timed with the start of the football season and baseball playoffs.
She said the cans, available in a number of color schemes, were intended to connect with fans of legal drinking age, and carry no logos, names or other proprietary identifiers.
“We place great value in the relationships we’ve built with college administrators and campus communities across the country,” Clark wrote. “Certain cans are not being made available in communities where organizations had asked us not to offer them.”
She said the program was made available to wholesalers nationwide, and about half decided to participate.
KU has implemented a number of policy changes since the alcohol-related deaths of two students last semester.
One such policy requires all new students to take an online alcohol education course. Monday was the first day students could log on and take the class.