Outside the Lines:
Beer Advertisements


Here's the transcript from Show 157 of weekly Outside The Lines - Beer Advertisements

SUN., MARCH 30, 2003
Host: Bob Ley
Reported by: Steve Delsohn
Guests: Jim Delany, Commissioner, Big Ten Conference; John Kaestner, Vice-President Consumer Affairs, Anheuser-Busch; Barbara Lippert, Editor-at-large, Adweek.

BOB LEY - College students and beer. Together seemingly forever. Is there a link between such drinking and beer commercials on college sports telecasts?

BUD LIGHT COMMERCIAL - A man from the stands has stolen the Bug Light, ooohhhh.

LEY - The NCAA allows beer ads in its championship events.

JEFF BECKER, PRESIDENT OF THE BEER INSTITUTE - Beer commercials don't cause people to drink.

LEY - Some say the commercials send a message.

JOSEPH KENNEDY II, U.S. CONGRESSMAN (1987-1999) - If you want to get a pretty girl….,

COORS COMMERCIAL - …and twins!

KENNEDY - if you want to get a good looking guy...

BUD LIGHT COMMERCIAL - Why don't you two join this handsome gentleman for a Bud Light?

KENNEDY - ... go out and have a beer.

LEY - And some commercials are overtly sexual.

MILLER LIGHT COMMERCIAL - Who wouldn't want to watch that?

RON STRATTON, NCAA VP OF EDUCATION SERVICES - I wouldn't want to watch it. And I find it offensive.

BECKER - If an ad crossed the line in someone's mind, they have a choice. Do I buy that beer or don't I?

LEY - Today on Outside The Lines, beer ads and the NCAA. The impact on college students and the images conveyed.

LEY - Some obvious facts are going to collide this morning. First, college students drink; Some of them a lot. Also, beer advertising is a major player on the finances of televised sports and, beer like many other products, is sold with sex appeal.

So in the midst of March Madness, that $6 billion NCAA television property, these are the issues. Is there a connection between beer commercials and binge drinking on American college campuses? The National Center for Health Statistics defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in one sitting. Also, what are the appropriate images and messages to be conveyed by beer ads, especially in games directly controlled by the NCAA? Now, understanding the beer companies are in business to responsibly make money, and that the NCAA must administer all college sports, and that requires a great deal of money, and that even underage drinkers have personal responsibility for what they consume.

We begin now with this report from Steve Delsohn.

STEVE DELSOHN, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - It's the opening round of March Madness. And these Florida students have gathered at a popular local bar. This is a night to cheer for their beloved Gators, and to also do some drinking.

MALE COLLEGE STUDENT - It's Friday. We have been studying all week, it's time to go get drunk.

HENRY WECHSLER, PHD, DIRECTOR OF HARVARD PUBLIC HEALTH ALCOHOL STUDIES PROGRAM - There is nothing wrong with drinking. It's how much one drinks.

DELSOHN - Henry Wechsler is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Since 1993, he has directed Harvard's college alcohol studies.

WECHSLER - The problem with college drinking is not that students have one drink with a pizza. The problem is that when they drink, many of them have five or more drinks in a row.

DELSOHN - How big a problem is college binge drinking?

WECHSLER - College binge drinking is the number one public health problem on America's campuses. An estimated 1,400 students die each year as a result of misuse of alcohol.

KENNEDY - This is not about being some sort of preacher, tee-totaler, you know, prohibitionist. I am not for any of that crap. I am saying, wake up, folks. This is having a huge effect on our children.

DELSOHN - Joseph Kennedy the Second, Robert Kennedy's son, was a United States Congressman for 12 years. During that time, he authored legislation to limit alcohol advertising on college campuses.

KENNEDY - I have two sons in college. And I am telling you, I worry like hell about what the message that gets pounded into their heads every day.

DELSOHN - One of Harvard's most recent studies found that college students who consider themselves sports fans are about 50 percent more likely to binge drink than other students. Kennedy says these particular students have been targeted by beer ads.

KENNEDY - You go on to college campuses today. You are going to find concerts, sporting events, volleyball tournaments; you name it, that are going to be sponsored right on the college campus by beer companies. They reinforce a message over and over and over that if you want to get a pretty girl, you want to get a good looking guy, what you do is go out and have a beer.

BECKER - Beer commercials don't cause people to drink.

DELSOHN - Jeff Becker is president of the Beer Institute, the trade group that represents the beer industry.

BECKER - What advertising can do, is if you are a beer drinker, it can encourage you to drink that kind of beer. What it can't do is influence someone's decision to drink.

DELSOHN - Becker also says beer advertising does belong in college sports telecasts.

BECKER - Since beer advertising doesn't cause people to drink, since it is interesting and fun advertising for our consumers, and our consumers are sports fans, it is a perfect environment for us to be advertising it.

DELSOHN - What do you say to the industry representatives who say, hey, college kids are going to drink whether we run ads or not.

KENNEDY - That's true. Sure. Of course they are going to drink. How much are they going to drink?

DELSOHN - We asked these Florida students if watching beer commercials compelled them to drink more.

MALE COLLEGE STUDENT - ... the end we understand the beer commercials, but I don't think it makes me want to buy beer and get drunk.

MALE COLLEGE STUDENT - If they play it on TV, whether they play it or not, it doesn't effect whether you are going to go the store and go do it.

DELSOHN - The beer industry also says that its ads are not directed at college students. In fact, a Nielson media research study shows that only 12 percent of those who watch college basketball on TV are under age 21.

DELSOHN - The NCAA has also examined this issue, and it does have some restrictions on TV beer commercials. But the restrictions only apply to NCAA championships. For every hour that is broadcast, there cannot be more than 60 seconds of beer ads.

STRATTON - What we are trying to do is say, what is reasonable.

DELSOHN - Ron Stratton is the NCAA' s vice president of Education services. Part of Stratton's job is developing and implementing the NCAA' s programs for alcohol education.

With binge drinking being a problem on some college campuses, how concerned is the NCAA with the beer advertisements that run during a televised college sports event?

STRATTON - I would say that it is maybe a contributing factor, but it's -- I think the issue is a much broader one than that advertisement. I think we have got some cultural issues on our campuses that we are trying to stall.

DELSOHN - In the debate over beer advertising, there is also a question of what is appropriate content.

WECHSLER - Some of the ads picture suggestive sexual connotations around twins, as an example.

DELSOHN - We asked Stratton to look at a range of beer commercials which have all run during college sports telecasts.

STRATTON - That's a pretty tasteful beer commercial.

DELSOHN - There is a little bit of sexual content...

STRATTON - Yes. Yeah, with the back of the woman pulling off her shirt or whatever. And I think that is where you lose me.

DELSOHN - This is the famous cat-fight ad by Miller. And Miller has done a series of sequels where there are going to be spin-offs on this ad. How do you feel about that?

MILLER LIGHT COMMERCIAL - Now that would make a great commercial. Who wouldn't want to watch that?

STRATTON - I wouldn't want to watch that. And I find it offensive. And I would think the membership will find this one offensive. And I can't say that strong enough, both personally and professionally.

DELSOHN - The beer industry also runs a series of responsible drinking ads.

MALE ACTOR - Got everything you need?
MALE ACTOR - Just checking.

BECKER - The responsible drinking commercials allow us a broad based opportunity to communicate with our consumers a message of responsibility, which we think is very appropriate.

DELSOHN - But Wechsler dismisses such ads as ineffective, and regardless, he wants all beer ads removed from college sports telecasts including the highly rated Final Four.

WECHSLER - I don't think there is any reason why the NCAA should allow beer advertisements around the Final Four. The only reason is money, and that is not a good enough reason.

DELSOHN - But the NCAA does not operate in a vacuum. It has broadcast partners, including CBS and ESPN who sell the ad times to the beer industry. And Stratton says it would be unrealistic to ask the networks to drop all their beer advertising.

STRATTON - I think a lot of their revenue is based on advertising sales. So I think that is reality. I think it would be naive to think that we could influence in that way.

LEN DELUCA, ESPN SENIOR VP OF PROGRAMMING - Somebody comes to you and says take out your beer ads. That is an absolute last draconian resort.

DELSOHN - Len Deluca is a senior vice president of programming at ESPN.

DELUCA - I think the binge drinking issue is a personal issue, a sad problem issue for people and students and nonstudents alike. Is it fair to say that we are broadcasting these spots or the beer companies trying to sell their product, are the cause. And that hasn't been established.

BECKER - It is a serious issue, and brewers appreciate that. However, doing simple cosmetic things like taking care of beer ads -- taking beer ads off the air regardless of when it is, isn't going to solve this problem.

LEY - That report from Steve Delsohn. Just how prevalent is beer advertising in sporting telecasts? For the third quarter of 2002, three of the top five sports advertisers were beer companies: Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Miller; This according to Nielson Media Research.

As to those cat-fight commercials for Miller beer, they have not aired to date in the NCAA tournament, but a Miller spokesperson told Outside The Lines that one cat-fight ad from a new series of ten commercials will probably air next weekend during the Final Four. We invited a representative from Miller to join us here this morning, but the company declined. We are happy, though, to welcome this morning's panel. Jim Delany is in his 14th year as the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, and he joins us from Hinsdale, Illinois. John Kaestner is the vice president of consumer affairs for Anheuser-Busch, and he joins us from St. Louis. Good morning, gentlemen.



LEY - Jim, let me begin with you. There is a restriction on NCAA telecasts on beer commercials. What were the concerns that drove that restriction?

DELANY - Well, I think that we are all aware that underage drinking is a problem and that whether you're underage or whether you're of legal age, excessive use of alcohol is a problem. And I was on a negotiating committee I think in 1990 when the first restrictions were put in place. And those restrictions both to amount and also to content. At the time we were trying to encourage responsible drinking. And I think, you know, the point is well taken in the video that introduced the subject. There are many, many media contracts in effect. We have contracts with two networks and a number of cable companies as well as syndication companies. And the reality is for us less than 10 percent of this advertising is beer related. Most of it is really an attempt to differentiate brands. There's no question there are some sexual innuendo used to sell...

LEY - But you do restrict it, though? You do restrict it?

DELANY - We don't restrict it...

LEY - Why?

DELANY - ... restrict it -- we don't restrict it because it amounts to sometimes less -- most times less than 10 percent of the advertising. I think there's another concern that if we were to go that route, it may or may not have an effect on the problem area. We have not seen any data that shows that there is a causation between this advertising and use of alcohol.

LEY - If that's the case then, why not allow unrestricted beer advertising in NCAA events?

DELANY - Well, I think you have to understand there are institutional choices on this matter. There are conference choices, and there are NCAA choices. This is not a monolithic -- it's a monolithic problem but the decision making about it, the only monolithic approach would be if the federal government came in and said yes or no as it has in the area of cigarette advertising. Otherwise different entities will take different approaches to it. And until the data shows there's a causation issue, it is not a matter of brand differential, I don't think you'll see the extreme or absolutist approach taken on the subject.

LEY - All right, John, what do you make of the NCAA championship restriction of 60 seconds per hour?

KAESTNER - Well, first of all, Bob, let me say that Anheuser-Busch is almost synonymous with sports and I think your graphic earlier showed that. This is where our people are in terms of our beer drinkers. Sports fans are beer drinkers. We want to be there. We want to advertise to them. And so that's the reason why you're seeing Anheuser-Busch on as many sports properties as there are. Now according to Nielsen, 82 percent of the people who are watching the NCAA tournament this week are 21 years of age and above. This is good business sense for Anheuser-Busch to be there. We're spending our money wisely. We're there where our customers are. And we feel that it's very appropriate.

LEY - Well, bearing in mind, Jim, the number you just gave me, 10 percent is your number of college sports advertising revenue is beer advertising, listen to Donna Shalala, the president of the University of Miami, on her take on beer revenues and college sports.

DONNA SHALALA, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI PRESIDENT - If we accept the advertising, if we sell beer in our facilities, then we're part of the problem. And we have to take a substantial amount of the blame. And we have to decide what's important to us. And at the end of the day we're going to have to make the adjustment, financial adjustments, if necessary. And we're going to have to make a hard decision about TV revenues and what we think is appropriate. We set the standards.

LEY - All right, Jim, president of a major school saying, well, we can walk away from money. You're saying it's 10 percent. Why not do that?

DELANY - I think Donna is exactly right. There are all forms and fashions of marketing. Sponsorships that exist on campus, sponsorships that exist at the conference level and sponsorships that exist at the NCAA level. My own impression is that this advertising, while some of it is problematic in terms of the innuendo, the use of sex to sell beer, the fact of it is that most of it is about brand differentiation. A small segment of the audience is underage. And if the presidents at the NCAA or the conference level, the institutional level, say no, we won't. And I don't think they're going to say no until they see data that shows there's a causation between this kind of advertising and binge drinking. We haven't seen that information.

LEY - All right, when we continue, we are going to take a look at another part of this problem, part of the issue you mentioned, Jim, the sexual images and messages, the suggestive nature of the ad. Should they be part of college telecasts?

LEY - Joining our panel now is Barbara Lippert, an editor-at-large for "Adweek." She is in New York City and she joins our panel that includes Jim Delany of the Big Ten Conference, and Mr. Kaestner of Anheuser-Busch. Barbara, let me give you a chance here to talk about the ads that -- you are in a lot of press. The cat-fight, the twins ads -- twins from Coors, the cat-fight from Miller, the sexual messages that are sent and how they're being received in the advertising community on sports telecasts.

BARBARA LIPPERT, EDITOR-AT-LARGE FOR "ADWEEK" - Well, absolutely the Miller cat-fight, let's hope no actual breasts were hurt in the shooting of that commercial. But it's seen as a mark of desperation.

LIPPERT - It's really low and it's really crude and it's unnecessary. And what it does is it exploits women and desensitizes men. There are a lot more important issues right now in the world going on, and we need each other.

And what it teaches us is it alienates us from each other, it alienates all of the women who are watching. And what it really is it's not so much about sex, it's not so much about loving women. It's about boys saying, let's have our own little playroom with a big sign that says no girls allowed. And in our culture, in our Army, in our work place, we can't afford that.

LEY - Jim, should those ads be on NCAA telecasts?

DELANY - I agree with much that Barbara has said. I think the question is how you get control over content. I know that I've had discussions with leadership of some of the networks that have had them on the air. And quite honestly I was surprised to know that they hadn't followed it as closely as they may have.

LEY - Do they show a willingness to listen to you and maybe not air those?

DELANY - Well, some of them are your bosses, John, and I think they are going to go back and take a look. Some of the companies have, I think, been better than others. And I think maybe desperation is a good word to describe it.

LIPPERT - Right.

DELANY - And they're trying to move from positions two and three, perhaps, to position one.

LIPPERT - Absolutely.

DELANY - I know the company that is in the number one position right now has worked very closely with the college community and Anheuser-Busch, and has actually allowed the content of their advertising to be reviewed in advance and for comments to be made. I don't think that's true of either the twin's ad or of the ad dealing with the cat-fight.

LIPPERT - And Anheuser-Busch ...

LEY - All right, John, if I could, we are referring to your company, Anheuser-Busch. Sex sells. There are some different elements of sex even in AB ads, but what are your views on this topic?

KAESTNER - Well, I think what we try to do, Bob, is look at advertising in three different fashions. We try to use our advertising to compare it to some of the lifestyles out there today. And we use humor to do that especially with our Bud Light and Budweiser ads. We also use quality and tradition. The Clydesdales, the horse in the Busch ad you saw in the earlier piece you had. And then thirdly, and just as critical a component to our advertising strategy, is our responsibility ads which we've been running during the Final Four tournament throughout the past few weeks.

LIPPERT - Well, Anheuser-Busch has a real range of ads, and some are fantastic and hilarious like the Super Bowl with the zebra. And there's a whole range of sexual innuendo and jokes, and some are low, also, but at least there is that range. I'm not sure if people really respond to the drinking responsibly, but they certainly respond to these really over-the-top caricatures and ferry types like in the Miller beer ads. Miller beer is so thrilled with its 15 minutes now that they're going to ride that into more desperation. There's going to be a whole new series starring Pam Anderson and other women having pillow fights. And I don't know -- I think, you know, sort of the new…. that's not -- it's not going to necessarily translate into sales but they're so thrilled that they're generating any attention that they're going to keep it up.

LEY - What would be the reaction, Barbara, with the beer companies in a cynical way, almost enjoy it if Jim Delany and the NCAA told Coors don't run that ad next weekend?

LIPPERT - Well, Coors does have one ad that celebrates women. And perhaps it's in response to the twins, because why would they want to alienate almost 50 percent of their drinkers? So I think that these people will have to come to terms with what they're doing and start listening to women.

LEY - Jim ...

DELANY - Barbara, I think there's one point here. The answer to this is not legislative. It's really a matter of consumer preference. People have got to give the company feedback. The people who own the rights to these events need to give the companies feedback, because I will tell you that everybody thought that the zebra ad was hilarious. But if you've had officials who have been criticized, critiqued, assaulted, and almost run out of town in some cases, I didn't think that was so funny. And so while maybe 99 percent of the population thought it was funny, as a commissioner who is responsible for training and working with officials and trying to improve their perception, I didn't think that was so funny. So I don't think 100 percent of the population is ever going to be comfortable with the poking of fun or the dumbing down of any group. And I think if we don't like it we have an obligation to speak.

LIPPERT - That's right.

LEY - But Jim, the NCAA is running a public service announcement during a tournament that talks about scholar athlete and the exemplar is a woman. Title IX is a fact of life. Women athletes. How would you square the commitment to Title IX gender equality in airing some of these ads on NCAA telecasts?

DELANY - Well, I think that the image and the objective that we're trying to forward is that participation is healthy for men and women. It needs to be done fairly and the opportunities need to be distributed fairly. And I think when a company goes off in the direction that they have in the cat-fight or in the beer -- it's a different stereotype, it's a different generalization, it's a different objectification that what we are interested in projecting on behalf of female athletes. That's for sure.

LIPPERT - And certainly for the images of men. Do they want to be seen as slobbering pigs, knuckle-dragging hormone heads?

DELANY - Nor would officials want to be compared as animals.

LEY - Let me give the final word to John Kaestner. John, we have got 15 seconds.

KAESTNER - Yes, OK. I think one of the things we need to focus on here is the NCAA and Anheuser-Busch work very well together on the issues of underage drinking and abuse of college drinking. We have funded for the last 12 years the choices program to the tune of $2.75 million, encouraging campuses to come up with their own ideas about how to address alcohol abuse. We're also on the same page with something called social norms.

LEY - There's a great commitment from your company, that's the point you are making, and I appreciate it. I have to jump in. Jim Delany, John Kaestner, Barbara Lippert, thank you all for a lively discussion. I appreciate it.

Coming up, two of the Final Four are set. Dick Vitale will join Suzy and I on "SportsCenter" to see if today's top seeds will make it through to New Orleans.

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