Anheuser-Busch InBev Issues Warnings in Advance of Annual Meeting in Brussels
SAN FRANCISCO, April 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B InBev) issued a warning to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cage fighting group that homophobic and sexist comments would not be tolerated. The comments came on the eve of the beer giant's annual shareholders meeting April 25 in Brussels, Belgium. The Brazilian managed global corporation has also generated recent controversy over beer sales in World Cup football (soccer) stadiums, and may have to respond to watchdog and shareholder concerns over sport sponsorships.
Alcohol Justice, the U.S. based alcohol industry watchdog, sent a letter to major shareholders of Anheuser-Busch InBev on April 18, 2012 expressing concern over the bloody, violent, sexist and homophobic advertising and content of UFC cage fighting events. In response, A-B InBev management announced in several trade newsletters that they had issued warnings to the UFC.
Kane's Beverage News Daily received this response on April 23, 2012 from A-B InBev: "Anheuser-Busch embraces diversity and does not condone insensitive and derogatory comments rooted in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc."
In the Brewers' Guardian online newsletter today, A-B InBev said, "We've communicated to the UFC our displeasure with certain remarks made by some of its fighters, and they have promised to address this. If the incidents continue, we will act." (www.brewersguardian.com/brewing-features/international/1191.html)
"We expect upset shareholders at Wednesday's annual A-B InBev meeting to demand stronger action from the management, perhaps even an immediate end to UFC sponsorship," said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice. "Shareholders don't want to be associated with a bloody sport that denigrates women and the LGBT community."
Additionally, Alcohol Justice announced today its intent today to file a US Federal Trade Commission complaint and a Beer Institute complaint against sexist and sexually charged UFC advertising by A-B InBev. "The Bud Light ad in question is disgusting, and typical of their cage-fighting sponsorship advertising campaign," added Livingston.
The objectionable ad featuring the Octagon Girl can be found at: http://youtu.be/d_ShjOg8bS4
The full text of the letter from Alcohol Justice to A-B InBev shareholders follows and is available at www.AlcoholJustice.org:
April 19, 2012
An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) Shareholders
RE: Opposition to sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
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, MPP
CONTACT: Michael Scippa, 415-548-0492
Jorge Castillo, 213-840-3336
SOURCE Alcohol Justice