An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) Shareholders

April 19, 2012

An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) Shareholders

RE: Opposition to Sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Dear Shareholder:
As fellow shareholders and as public health advocates, Alcohol Justice (formerly Marin Institute) asks you to vigorously oppose ABI’s sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s largest promoter of violent cage-fighting events.
We believe ABI’s sponsorship of UFC must come to an end as there is a very tangible risk to the bottom line of dividends and stock price value as well as long term bad press as the relationship of this patently brutal blood sport to predatory marketing of Bud Light to underage youth are played out on the global stage of public opinion. It’s already being called “Blood Light.” This cannot be good for business, sales, or long-term profitability.
Alcohol Justice, the alcohol industry watchdog, has served as a leading research and advocacy institution for over 24 years. We monitor and expose the alcohol industry’s targeting of youth and minority populations, as well as the industry’s adverse effect on public health and the environment globally.
There is compelling evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing increases the likelihood of underage drinking. Since 2001, at least seven peer-reviewed, federally funded, long-term studies have found that young people with greater exposure to alcohol marketing — including on television, in magazines, on the radio, on billboards or other outdoor signage, or via in-store beer displays, beer concessions, or ownership of beer promotional items or branded merchandise — are more likely to start drinking than their peers.
As the primary sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) is delivering harmful content to millions of underage youth. At center stage is the ever-present Bud Light logo, imbued throughout all of UFC's violent events, including live fights, Pay-Per-View, and television broadcasts that reach 354 million homes worldwide. These homes are filled with children!
In addition, millions of UFC fans of all ages have access to live streaming of fights via Facebook, and limitless YouTube videos of bloody fights, promotions, and "pornohol" such as Bud Light Lime ads featuring UFC "Octagon Girl" Arianny Celeste topless, underwear-clad and rolling around in a bed of limes.
UFC President Dana White has been quoted as saying “our targeted audience is anywhere from age 17 to 35.”  He and a number of UFC athletes have recently come under fire for sexist, homophobic, violent and derogatory remarks, including jokes about rape and sexual assault. As A-B InBev shareholders we should be outraged by this behavior.
Given that alcohol is the number one drug of choice among America’s youth, and the U.S Surgeon General estimates that approximately 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking each year, board members, shareholders, and consumers will become more aware of the ethical ramifications that continued sponsorship of UFC will have on ABI. Do we really want Bud Light ads to be condemned for irresponsibly delivering harmful content to millions of youth, exposing them to people beating one another to a bloody pulp?
We believe this will lead to mounting litigations, inevitable regulatory and legislative actions, and growing concerns about the safety of youth exposed to harmful content by viewing UFC promotions. All of this can only hurt ABI’s reputation as a corporate citizen and its robust revenue.
As shareholders we have an obligation to help protect stock value by holding the corporation to higher standards of responsibility, especially those related to underage consumption and harm.  We can insist that management address these ethical issues with more integrity by pulling its support of this graphic, violent, bloody sport.  While the world may still want to enjoy a Bud Light, it does not need “Blood Light.”

Bruce Lee Livingston
Bruce Lee Livingston, MPP
Executive Director/CEO

Oppose California SB 778

a-smirnoff-party-adAcross the country, Big Alcohol spends huge sums of money on marketing, including sponsorship of brand-related sweepstakes and contests, to increase alcohol sales and consumption. California has managed to keep some of this alcohol promotion at bay through state code that does not allow any premium, gift, or free goods in connection with the sale or distribution of any alcoholic beverages. Not surprisingly, Big Alcohol entities including the Wine Institute, Diageo, and DISCUS are trying to dismantle these protections with Senate Bill 778, introduced by Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley). You can help protect the health and safety of California residents and visitors by telling lawmakers to say NO to SB 778.    Take Action Now.        


Nebraska Policymakers Overturn State Supreme Court Ruling on Alcopops

AlcopopsLast month the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that flavored malt beverages, also known as alcopops, are distilled spirits and should be classified and taxed as such, instead of the beer tax rate the state has been using. The ruling meant 12 times more alcopops tax revenue for the budget-beleaguered state, and less access to alcopops for youth, whom producers target with these products.

A ruling like that should have policymakers celebrating, wouldn’t you think? After all, their responsibility is to serve the health and welfare of the public they represent, along with keeping a balanced budget for the state. Or is it? Just one month after the ruling, state legislators effectively overturned the Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision with LB 824. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved the legislation April 6. The new law keeps the status quo intact: taxing alcopops at the beer rate and keeping the products available wherever beer is sold.
LB 824 is also a slap in the face to public health advocates who have been fighting for more sensible regulation of these dangerous products for years. Diane Riibe, Executive Director of the nonprofit Project Extra Mile, said of the bill: "In a day where our state is facing a budget shortfall in the millions, giving any industry a tax break seems most unwise, especially when that tax break is on a product that harms our children. The Legislature voted to protect business interests over kids. It's an extremely sad day for our children. We hope for a day when our policy makers are ready to have a real and valid conversation about the public health of ourchildren."
It's no surprise to see certain legislators going out of their way to please the powerful alcohol industry lobby at the expense of the communities they are supposed to represent. However, we don't often see a legislature deliberately override the state supreme court in order to make alcohol companies happy. Welcome to the Doghouse, Nebraska Legislature and Governor Heineman.

Brazil Bill Forcing World Cup Alcohol Sales Progresses

WCBrasilIn Brazil, where FIFA has demanded that the sovereign nation change its laws to allow alcohol sales during the 2014 World Cup, the Congressional commission has voted in favor of a bill that forces the sale of alcohol at World Cup matches. The vote comes after widespread outcry over FIFA’s attempts to dictate the reversal of public-safety laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages in soccer stadiums, in the name of increased profits for FIFA and one of its main sponsors, Anheuser-Busch InBev. "FIFA wants to have powers in Brazil which it is not entitled to, as a private company,” stated federal congressman and former World Cup-winning striker Romario de Souza Faria. Now that the bill has been approved by committee, it must be passed by the lower house and the senate before before being signed into law. Click here for Alcohol Justice's press release.