In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. Pushes Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

a man reviews the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger Fast Food/Beer Co-Marketing Targets Youth

On October 27, 2016, sister fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s rolled out the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger, going beyond questionable nutrition into the promotion of alcohol-based harm. Co-branding fast food with Budweiser is irresponsible and dangerous. On any given day, over a third of all children and adolescents—from age 2 to age 19—have eaten at a fast food restaurant. That number may be even higher in young adults; according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 57% of 18 to 29 year-olds consumed fast food at least weekly.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents and young adults are extremely vulnerable to alcohol-related harms, both behavioral (e.g., drunk driving) and developmental (e.g., laying the groundwork for later alcoholism). So if youth and young adults are going to seek out fast food restaurants, prominently exhibiting beer logos further normalizes drinking, even building the expectation that a meal ought to be accompanied by alcohol.

Moreover, in this instance, the co-branding may give AB InBev (the makers of Bud)—and any global alcohol corporation that follow its lead—an excuse to overstep voluntary industry guidelines and/or local restrictions against youth marketing. Billboards for these alcohol-branded products could easily be placed in close proximity to schools and other youth-centered locations, since it’s "really" just an advertisement for a burger.

The Hardees/Carl's Jr. CEO, Andrew Puzder, who cynically employed this partnership, may well be promoted to Trump's Cabinet. A little over a month after his chains released the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Burger, Puzder was picked for Labor Secretary by President-Elect Donald Trump.

ad for the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger, to the shame of good beer cheese everywhereThere are suggestions that this outreach to vulnerable youth is intentional on behalf of Puzder. In the past, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has been notorious for running overtly exploitative ads linking highly sexualized women to their products. When challenged by Entrepreneur, Puzder insisted the ads were “an appeal to youth, so it really reaches a broad demographic.” Studies on underage drinking show that no other brand is as often implicated in binge drinking as Bud. If the company is unapologetically conscious of the appeal sex has to an underage audience, it’s hard to give them a pass on the appeal of booze.

"This nefarious co-branding co-mingles hamburgers designed for youth with a product that should never be marketed to youth," said Bruce Lee Livingston, ED/CEO of Alcohol Justice. "We urge our members and colleagues to contact their members of Congress to condemn this deliberate and reckless disregard for youth, public health, and safety. While Alcohol Justice is not offering an opinion on Puzder's cabinet appointment, this is a golden opportunity for Congress to question him for his motives behind marketing alcohol taste and sexism via youth-oriented fast food.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress that marketing beer through fast food is a bad idea.

Top photo: food blogger Matt Zion, via Grubstreet.

Bears Not Beers: Don't Let Budweiser Invade Our National Parks

A crushed Budweiser can littering a forest.It is no secret that the National Park Service (NPS) is choked for funds. In its efforts to raise revenue, the service has struck a deal with Budweiser, allowing branded signs and sponsorships—an effort that a large coalition of public health, industry watchdog, and substance use prevention organizations condemned as “a mistake that should not be repeated.”

Public Citizen and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood led the group to co-sign an October 27th letter criticizing the partnership with megabrewer AB Inbev, makers of Budweiser. The group warns that alcohol branding in public parks will “encourage underage drinking and damage the reputation of national parks as safe spaces for children and families.”

The branding agreement was the brainchild of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis. For almost 20 years, the service has adhered to Director’s Order 21, which prohibited donations from any product or company that would “reflect adversely on the NPS mission and image, such as alcohol or tobacco products.” However, last year, Jarvis led the Service to sign a $2.5 million deal with AB Inbev, allowing the brewer to use NPS icons such as the Statue of Liberty and promote Bud-branded events within the parks themselves. According to the Denver Post, Jarvis heralded the deal as “aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands.”

Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, dismissed the deal as accommodation to corporate interests. “This deal isn’t a slippery slope,” he told the Post. “It’s a bungy jump.”

Budweiser joins several other alcohol producers in seeking to align themselves with active, outdoor lifestyles. However, a brand as large as Budweiser has associated itself with many other things, most which the NPS should be reluctant to sign off on: stock cars; sexist iconography and language suggestive of sexual assault; and, notably, youth alcohol use. Bud and Bud Light alone may account for 20% of underage binge drinking

Importantly, alcohol companies have a documented history of using social responsibility and philanthropy to both whitewash their image and reach new markets. NPS should not be an accessory to this. Alcohol Justice is proud to be a co-signee on the letter, and calls on Director Jarvis to restore the integrity of Director’s Order 21—preserving our parks as a refuge from corporate interests, alcohol advertising, and youth exposure to an all-too-pervasive public health threat.

TAKE ACTION: sign the petition to Respect Our Parks.

READ MORE from Public Citizen.

FULL TEXT of the letter to the National Park Service.

An image of a granite face with hashtag Respect Our Parks

Binge Pink: Keeping Alcohol Away from Breast Cancer Charities

A drip of pink paint down a wall.Breast cancer threatens the health of millions of women worldwide, and the pink ribbon is widely recognized as a symbol of hope, awareness, and action. This has resulted in an “all hands on deck” mentality, where any offer of support is welcome as part of charity events and campaigns. Many fundraising events, however, rely on alcohol as an inducement (or even raison d’etre) despite the substantial role drinking plays in exacerbated the risk of breast cancer.

Although the events themselves have their hearts in the right place, the alcohol industry's eager participation creates real problems. San Francisco-based watchdog group Breast Cancer Action has coined the term "pinkwashing" to describe a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time sells products that are linked to the disease. “Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products," said Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action. "The widely recognized pink ribbon symbol is not regulated by any agency and does not necessarily mean it effectively combats the breast cancer epidemic. In fact, many companies sell pink ribbon products that are linked to increased risk of breast cancer.”

Alcohol Justice has already detailed the industry's widespread complicity in pinkwashing tactics, wherein companies use breast cancer awareness to receive significant marketing exposure, celebrate alcohol use, and directly target their products at young women—heedless of the carcinogenic consequences of drinking. These problems are compounded when the alcohol industry sponsors, piggybacks on, or serves as the focus of other organizations' pink ribbon events. Through in-kind donations, open bars, drinking festivals, and other forms of sponsorship, alcohol companies don’t just promote their product, they promote the idea that greater consumption is a social good regardless of the cancer-causing effects of frequent drinking.

"Cancer charities need to reconsider any marketing partnerships and sponsorship relationships with alcohol brands," said Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston. "It's exploitative and disrespectful for these brands to benefit in sales and exposure when they are making the problem worse."

According to the American Cancer Society, women who have two or more drinks per day have a 50% increase in their risk of breast cancer. For attendees to justify the admission price for beer festivals and open bar events—which can run $50 or more—they will have to consume much more than two drinks.

As the pink ribbon becomes more and more prevalent in the philanthropic landscape, it creates more potential for these kinds of self-defeating actions. Breast Cancer Action established the Think Before You Pink website to provide guidelines for evaluating breast cancer charities, partners, and events. Among other axioms, they advise consumers to ask themselves, “Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer?” With alcohol in general—and frequent or binge drinking in particular—the answer is an unqualified yes.

This is not to preclude all beer or spirits companies from engaging in social responsibility surrounding breast cancer. However, these companies need to limit themselves to unrestricted cash contributions and keep their logos out of materials linked to the causes they are supporting. Considering the messaging, the risks, and the importance of combating breast cancer, these events should celebrate life, perseverance, and hope, not binge drinking.

Mr. Livingston presented on pinkwashing as part of the 2016 Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Seminar on October 20th, 2016. The slides from his presentation are available here.