Recently Anheuser-Busch hit upon the marketing idea of selling Bud Light beer in cans decorated with the college-team colors. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t have much else to do - it’s not like there’s been say fraud going on in the mortgage market - it quickly turned its attention to the issue, expressing “grave concern” that these team-colored cans would encourage underage and binge drinking.
As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, FTC attorney Janet Evans said “this does not appear to be responsible activity.” What’s not responsible is the FTC wasting taxpayer resources wondering what color beer cans we are drinking out of. When I was an underage drinker, the last thing on my mind was the color of the can. The ultimate purpose of the marketing campaign is to shift demand away from boring, non-team color beer cans toward team color cans. If beer drinkers (or can collectors) get some pleasure out of a certain colored can, where’s the fraud or deception in that?
The real purpose of FTC’s interest is revealed in the comments of the Licensing Resource Group, which represents the colleges in protecting their logos. Almost all the colleges that have asked Anheuser-Busch to stop selling the cans have cited trademark concerns. Yet none of the cans have any team logos. While no one would dispute the right of a college to control the use of its team logo, is it really reasonable to conclude that the colleges also own the rights to the use of certain colors?