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Responsibility does matter, sometimes

BY ADAM WESLEY | JULY 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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The University of Iowa's recently signed contract with Anheuser-Busch, allowing the beer company to use the Tigerhawk logo alongside beer logos — such as Bud Light — has generated a debate and calls into question the integrity of the university's commitment to reducing alcohol-related problems on campus.

Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness called it a "really bad idea," adding, "It looks like the University of Iowa is promoting [Anheuser-Busch products]" at a meeting of alcohol-safety advocates on July 11, as reported by the DI.

Shelly Campo, a UI associate professor of community and behavioral health, pointed out the ambiguity of the phrase, "responsibility matters."

The usage of that phrase is how UI President Sally Mason defended the contract.

"The requirement that the possible use of the Tigerhawk logo be accompanied by the phrase 'Responsibility Matters' is consistent with our alcohol-harm-reduction initiative," Mason said in an official statement.

Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Life, echoed her.

"I don't think we're taking a significant risk by associating the Tigerhawk with [the Anheuser-Busch logo]," he said.

No significant risk … consistent with the UI's alcohol harm reduction initiative. See, the Hawks being associated with alcoholic products is fine.

This time.

However, in 2009, it wasn't fine at all.

I know 2009 is a really, really long time ago, but most people should be able to remember the Hawkeyes' 11-2 Orange Bowl winning season.

That fall, Anheuser-Busch's "Fan Can" promotion caused quite a stir on campus.

UI officials, desperate to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related problems, were very unhappy with Busch. The St. Louis brewing giant had launched a "Fan Can" advertising campaign that had the UI, along with many other universities, up in arms.

The "Fan Can" promotion consisted of uniquely colored Bud Light cans with the colors of 27 different school-color combinations, including the Black and Gold.

Mason was not pleased and drafted a letter to Busch explaining how "concerned" the UI was with binge drinking and underage drinking on its campus.

Her letter stated that the "Fan Can" promotion was "a step backward and will only serve to exacerbate this major student-health and safety problem."

She iterated the UI's disappointment in Busch's "decision to use this marketing strategy," that was "openly targeting [Iowa City's] student population, many of whom are underage."

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university was afraid the cans might send a "mixed message at a time when we are encouraging students to drink legally and responsibly," as reported by the DI.

But wait, you say. Isn't that the same argument being used by those who oppose the newly signed contract with Busch? That associating the UI with Busch logos clearly targets UI students, many of whom are underage?

Gee willikers, you're right! It is!

Now I'm confused.

In three years, the UI has gone from aggressively opposing Bud Light cans being sold in Hawkeye Black and Gold to officially sanctioning the use of the Tigerhawk alongside (potentially) Bud Light logos.

What's different this time, you might ask?

Well the one obvious difference is Busch is paying the UI this time. But surely the offer of money from a brewer wouldn't have any effect on the UI's stance toward such advertising campaigns.

That would be outrageous and irresponsible.

Responsible or not, the UI has gotten me excited about being at Kinnick this fall. Herky will probably end up running around in a Duffman costume; or is a dancing Bud Light can replacing him?

Either way, it should be entertaining.

Cheers, President Mason — this Bud's for you.


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