Bud Light drops plans to offer maize and blue cans after University of Michigan objects
You won't find maize and blue cans of Bud Light on game day.
Anheuser-Busch Inc. has bent to legal pressure over its attempt to peddle "dark blue and yellow" Bud Light cans as part of its "Team Pride"-"Made for Gameday" promotion, University of Michigan officials said today.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said U-M lawyers sent a letter of complaint to Anheuser-Busch on July 22 over the campaign. The campaign included U-M colored beer cans and T-shirts listing the football season schedule on the back.
Cunningham said lawyers have since heard back and were assured the cans won't be sold anywhere in U-M's community, which the university considers to be the entire state of Michigan.
"The university has a strict policy of not permitting our name or logo on anything that promotes the use of alcohol," Cunningham wrote in an e-mail to AnnArbor.com. "It could have been very confusing to all of our fans, student and non-student alike."
Promotional materials for the "Team Pride" program, also called "Fan Can," described the colors as dark blue and yellow; the letter from U-M lawyers uses "maize and blue" to describe the cans. The cans don't include logos or other proprietary identifiers, according to a written statement from Anheuser-Busch.
The statement describes "Team Pride" as a national program that includes multiple can color combinations across the country, timed to coincide with the beginning of football season and baseball playoffs. About half of Anheuser-Busch wholesalers are participating.
Tricia Hornsby, a spokeswoman for the Collegiate Licensing Co. - which licenses products for almost 200 colleges, including U-M - and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said 25 schools formally asked Anhesuer-Busch to axe its "Fan Can" campaigns near their campuses.
In the Anheuser-Busch statement, Carol Clark, vice president for corporate social responsibility, writes: "Certain cans are not being made available in communities where organizations had asked us not to offer them."
The letter from Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C., which represents U-M in trademark matters, said Michigan's "Maize and Blue" colors are part of its national identity, and many fans purchase U-M products under its licensing program.
The licensing does not permit the use of trademarks on alcoholic beverages. And regardless of what the colors are called, the letter states, "Michigan strongly believes that your proposed Team Pride program would infringe upon Michigan's trademarks, specifically its trademark colors." It went on to threaten legal action for trademark infringement if Anheuser-Busch or its wholesalers chose to proceed with the promotion.
The letter also references a 2008 court case involving Louisiana State University and an apparel company. The ruling made it clear that unauthorized use of colors associated with a university constitutes trademark infringement, the letter states.
Though the Louisiana State won its infringement case, its purple-and-gold Bud Light cans have recently been made available, and administrators there don't object, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
Juliana Keeping covers the University of Michigan for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2528 or email@example.com.