Beer Cans and Freedom
It turns out I spoke too soon when I said beer companies enjoy so much freedom to advertise and market their products in the United States. The news reported in this Wall Street Journal article is appalling. All Anheuser-Busch did was change the colors of its cans to match college teams’ colors, and now everyone, from the FTC to the colleges themselves, is in an uproar.
The colleges allege trademark infringement. The beer cans don’t feature any mascots or logos, though, so I don’t see how Anheuser-Busch could be in violation of trademark. Surely, these schools don’t have a monopoly on color combinations like blue and yellow.
Regarding marketing to underage students: It’s true that most college freshman and sophomores aren’t old enough to drink, but what about the juniors, seniors, graduate students, and faculty? Are they off-limits, too?
The FTC would have a weak legal case because of a concept called “free speech.” The government can’t forbid a company to use a combination of two colors on a package. However, that doesn’t deter an FTC lawyer from harassing Anheuser-Busch:
“We would certainly hope that something like this never happens again,” she said.