Tactic: Philanthropy

Alcohol Justice

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Tactic: Philanthropy

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It’s no coincidence that the groups who receive the most funding from Big Alcohol are also the most targeted by the industry and therefore most likely to suffer the ill effects of alcohol-related problems. 

Every major alcohol company participates in philanthropy; it gets them a lot of press and allows them to focus on education as the solution to alcohol problems.

As donors, Big Alcohol pre-empts any critical response by communities that are often desperate for funding. The corporations attach their names to positive community projects and in the process they also create a sense of brand loyalty that goes much deeper than traditional marketing campaigns.

Schools and Youth Groups

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 21 percent of the colleges and universities in the U.S. report receiving funding from the alcohol industry.* The majority of the money goes into so-called “responsibility campaigns,” which puts the burden of safety entirely on young people and their parents and keeps attention away from industry’s own aggressive marketing practices. In addition to schools, groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Boys and Girls Club, and Girls Incorporated are also frequent recipients.

Communities of Color

As the fastest growing population in the U.S., and an important target for Big Alcohol, Latinos receive a lot of corporate donations. For example, Anheuser-Busch currently claims that it supports more than 400 community-based, local and national Latino organizations and special events with contributions of more than $45 million over the past two decades.

Big Alcohol also has a stake in the African American community, a group that has been heavily targeted with alcohol advertising for decades. It’s not surprising then that Big Alcohol gives to causes such as the United Negro College Fund and 100 Black Men.

In an effort to publicize its philanthropy efforts towards people of color, Anheuser Busch has also gone as far as to establish websites called africanamericanbud.com, latinobud.com, and asianbud.com to broadcast its efforts in each community.

The Environment

As the environment becomes an increasingly hot issue for many investors, Big Alcohol is making it known that they care. Internationally-based alcohol companies like Diageo and SABMIller are especially interested in appearing eco-conscious in their philanthropy. From tree-planting to tsunami rebuilding efforts, Diageo spends a great deal of time and money to appear “committed to sustainability.” Meanwhile, SABMiller recently announced that it was supporting another trend in philanthropy; it’s funding “micro-farming” in Africa. But a closer look shows that the farms they support aren’t producing anything edible, they’re growing sorghum, a grain used to make alcohol.  

* The NCAA Anheuser-Busch CHOICES program funded 63 percent of the campuses that received industry funding. Local beverage distributors or outlets funded 31 percent of these schools. The Century Council, an organization created by the nation’s leading distillers, funded prevention programs at 21 percent of these campuses, while 11 percent received funding from other manufacturers or distributors. Large schools and public schools were also more likely than others to receive industry funding.