In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse: A-B InBev Talks, But No Walk

October 7, 2014

After initially remaining silent as videos of NFL players committing acts of domestic violence became public over the last few weeks, National Football League (NFL) sponsor A-B InBev issued a public statement about its conversations with the league. The statement was a public relations masterpiece, effectively placating consumers without actually committing to, or describing, any decisive action. Indeed, the $1.2 billion official NFL sponsorship remains intact - with no threat or even hint that it would be pulled.

While one might take the A-B InBev statement to mean the company is genuinely concerned about the NFL shrugging off its players' inexcusable behavior, there is no denying the need for A-B InBev to manage the message sent by its lack of response. Its eventual statement will most likely have a positive impact on perceptions of the corporate NFL sponsor, rather than interfere with the profits it reaps through NFL sponsorship.

In fact, the A-B InBev statement to the NFL was almost a word-for-word rehash of its 2012 statement to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) regarding public homophobic and misogynistic rants from its fighters, vaguely threatening to act if the UFC didn't get its athletes to behave better (or at least, not do it in public). Just as with the recent statement to the NFL, A-B InBev made no indication that its sponsorship of UFC pay-per-view broadcasts was on the line, even as it sponsored female UFC athletes, who deserved a far more substantial response.

A-B InBev stated that the behaviors by UFC fighters are "in no way...reflective of the company or its values," and that the NFL player behavior "goes against our own company and moral code." Sounds like the A-B InBev moral code and values means protecting its profits while providing lip service rather than action to condemn homophobia, misogyny, and domestic violence. As Houston Texans running back Arian Foster described in his refreshing rebuke of the hypocrisy: A-B InBev is "selling poison on that high horse."