Alcohol safety advocates disagree on UI's Busch contract

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Alcohol-safety advocates discussed the University of Iowa's renewed contract with Anheuser-Busch for the first time as a group Wednesday, and many voiced concerns about how the Hawkeye community interprets the message. The contract allows the Tigerhawk logo to share space on products with Anheuser-Busch logos along with the phrase "Responsibility Matters."

Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness said she thinks having a UI symbol placed next to an alcoholic-beverage symbol will send the wrong message.

"I think it's a really bad idea," she said. "It looks like the University of Iowa is promoting it."

Lyness, who has a 14-year-old daughter, said she had concerns about high-school kids seeing a banner while shopping at local stores.

The UI renewed its contract with the company in June. Since the renewal, there have been questions about whether the partnership contradicts the university's "Responsibility Matters" campaign.

The contract is between Anehuser-Busch and Learfield Communications Inc., the sports-marketing company hired to represent the Hawkeye Athletics Department.

Learfield will pay the Athletics Department $114 million through 2026. Anheuser-Busch officials will provide $43,000 for the UI's alcohol-harm-reduction plan in its first year.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she has not talked to one person who is favor of this contract, and she is concerned where the banners with the Anheuser-Busch logo and the Tigerhawk logo are together.

"I'm fine with it at my bar," she said, referring to her 21-only establishment. "But I know a lot of bars have [under-age people] in them."

UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin said the university has been clear with its message regarding alcohol consumption, and officials want students in particular to drink safely.

"I believe we have been clear enough with the community that we don't condemn alcohol," he said. "When it is used safely and legally, I don't think we're taking a significant risk by associating the Tigerhawk with [the Anheuser-Busch logo]."

Rick Klatt, the Hawkeye associate athletics director for external relations, said the university has partnered with Anheuser-Busch for more than 20 years and noted he's had some questions since the contract was signed.

The contract provides Anheuser-Busch access to the Tigerhawk trademark every time it is used in print fashion, and Klatt said the size of the Tigerhawk and the "Responsibility Matters" will be roughly the same size. He also said that every time it is used, it needs to be reviewed and approved by the university before it can be used in print.

"The approval process is very important, and it will be seen by many eyes," he said.

He said the Tigerhawk would accompany the Anheuser-Busch logo on places like banners in bars, restaurants, or grocery stores such as the Hy-Vee in Coralville and not on beer cans or apparel.

Shelly Campo, a UI associate professor of community and behavioral health, said the phrase "Responsibility Matters" is open for interpretation and does not necessarily mean people should drink responsibly.

"The data say that message is strategically ambiguous," she said. "And people can interpret it the way they want."

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