“Bud Pong” no longer on tap

Court sends in this article about Anheuser-Busch ceasing a promotional campaign focused on getting bar patrons to play a game of “Bud Pong.” The reasons are the predictable appeal to kids, encouragement of underage drinking, irresponsible use of alcohol, blah blah blah. Alas, in this instance MADD comes off as much less lame than the beer marketers, whose feigned ignorance makes me want to slap them for their weakness:

Players on one team try to sink a ball into another team’s liquid-filled cups. If successful, the opposing team must drink. Promotion guidelines specify the use of water in the cups, not beer, Anheuser-Busch (down $0.27 to $42.20, Research) said.

In a statement, the maker of Budweiser said that “it has come to our attention that despite our explicit guidelines, there may have been instances where this promotion was not carried out in the manner it was intended.”

A game identical to beer pong, played with items bearing the Bud logo, in a bar, and college students don’t play the game with H2O? Shocking.

Comments

  1. Ben Stark says:

    This reminds me of when Pizza Hut (or was it Domino’s) had that ad campaign: “get your delivery in 30 minutes or it’s free!” And then there were lots of car wrecks because the delivery guys were always speeding to get the delivery there in 30 minutes. And the pizza company was like “what? Ensuring the delivery guys get no tip if they are slow makes them go faster than the speed limit? We had no idea.”

    Up until now, I thought of the pizza delivery example as the archetype of corporations doing a hilariously bad job of feigning ignorance. But “H2O Pong” takes the cake.

  2. CP says:

    “Alas, in this instance MADD comes off as much less lame than the beer marketers, whose feigned ignorance makes me want to slap them for their weakness”

    Ignorance? Weakness?

    Please explain.

  3. Jacob Grier says:

    “Ignorance” as in their ridiculous claim to have not expected people to play with beer, not water.

    “Weakness” in contrast to a company like Hardees that relishes its unhealthiness in the midst of an ever more anti-indulgent culture. I’d have rather seen A-B be up front about its campaign and jocularly acknowledge that beer pong is a fun thing 20-somethings do. Though given the regulatory and liability climate alcohol companies face, I can’t say I blame them for copping out with a lame excuse.

  4. CP says:

    “Ignorant”…hardly.

    “Weakness”…morally weak of character yes…but brilliant as far as marketing strategy is concerned. Some of the best marketing campaigns are the re-called ones. Now I am not defending A-B, nor am I disagreeing with anything you said. But do we expect multi- million/billion dollar companies that make a profit off of a legal drug to be morally “strong”?

    I am missing the philosophy behind your comment.

  5. Jacob Grier says:

    I don’t expect it, no, but I do think it’s unfortunate that the company can’t market its product in the way it’s actually used. Bud doesn’t have quality going for it; beer pong is about all it’s got!

    That’s an interesting point that Bud could have done the promotion with a wink, knowing a recall would be necessary.

  6. CP says:

    “Bud doesn’t have quality going for it; beer pong is all it’s got.”

    Beers like Budweiser, Miller light, Natural light, all have one thing in common; they are terrible, cheap, beers drunk by college and high school students. However, beer companies, like any other company that is reliant on mass consumption, know that a loyal drinker is a drinker for life. Thus, beer, alcohol, and cigarette companies target younger audiences under the assumption that if they can win a persons loyalty at a young age, that person will be a life long consumer of their product. It is the “you have to get ‘em while they are young” theory.

    And this theory tends to make sense; how many people do you know (ok, so the average econ major, policy wonk, law student, and consultant don’t count) who are the average “Joe” who go to a bar and order a Bud every day because “that is what they drank in college?”

    It may be the cynic in me, but when I see an alcohol company targeting twenty somethings, I immediately assume that it was not only intentional, but calculated down to the last detail.

    Let’s think about it this way, Anheuser-Busch knows that people between the ages of 16 and 26 play drinking games with their product. They also know that these drinking games are also played with competitor beers like Miller. By distributing cups and tables with the Budweiser logo, Anheuser-Busch is creating a scenario where young beer drinkers associate drinking games, college, fun, and youth with their brand. This sort of nostalgia is priceless for a beer company.

    Anheuser-Busch then took the necessary precaution and wrote into their promotion guidelines, a “clause” which indicates that water should be used instead of beer. Of course this is crap, and everyone knows it, but it allows the company a venue to bow out gracefully when the moralists of society begin to bark…as they did. This sort of “clause” is much like the one on their website which asks for a person’s birth date before entering the site. Of course anyone can enter, but the necessary precaution is there to protect the company from regulatory and liability lawsuits.

    Thus, when I red this article on your site Jacob, my initial reaction to the campaign was “what a brilliant idea!” Of course this doesn’t mean that I agree with it from a moral platform, but from a pure business/marketing platform, the scheme was masterful.

    For more on Anheuser-Busch marketing schemes and nostalgia see their newest add targeting Middle America with a slogan that states; “A celebration of Budweiser and all things American!”

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