Sally Mason expresses concern over Anheuser-Busch Tigerhawk use

BY ERIC CLARK | AUGUST 31, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason on Thursday expressed apprehension over a key element of the school’s contract with Anheuser-Busch following controversy over posters that coupled Bud Light with Tigerhawk logos.

Mason addressed the Presidential Committee on Athletics Thursday in part to discuss her hesitancy.
“Our particular concern is the provision that allows Anheuser-Busch to use the Tigerhawk logo,” Mason said.

Though many criticized the UI’s decision to renew its contract, UI officials have maintained the partnership with Anheuser-Busch is a good one and doesn’t contradict the university’s alcohol-harm-reduction initiative. Mason and other officials have consistently assured critics that the UI would approve every advertisement with the signature logo.

But on Thursday, those same officials said they’re less than satisfied with the approval process. Numerous local bars displayed banners and advertisements with the Bud Light and the Tigerhawk logos this week, but many establishments removed the posters after pressure from UI officials.

“There are a lot of posters and merchandise out there that I didn’t approve and that I won’t approve,” said Hawkeye Athletics Director Gary Barta.

However, he did not back down from supporting the contract with Anheuser-Busch.

“They are a good partner; they’ve been a good partner for a long time,” he said. “I feel strongly that it’s a partnership that we enjoy.”

In June, officials renewed the contract between Anheuser-Busch and Learfield Communications Inc., the sports-marketing company representing the Athletics Department. Learfield will pay the Athletics Department $114 million through 2026. The contract will provide $43,000 for the UI’s alcohol-harm-reduction plan in its first year.

Barta declined to criticize Anheuser-Busch for the posting of the banners.

“It’s an execution thing, not a partnership thing,” he said.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she had a Bud Light “welcome back students” poster taken down recently. However, it was not her decision

“Budweiser had them taken down,” Cohen said. “I could’ve taken it down myself, but I didn’t think the message was offensive.”

Cohen did not have a complete answer as to why the poster was taken down.

“I’ve been hearing the same thing you have,” she said.

Woody Orne, the general manager of the Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St., said Budweiser put up a new poster in the establishment Thursday without him knowing.

He said the new poster is “definitely different from the old one” that was removed. The new poster lists the Hawkeye football schedule alongside an image of Bud Light bottles and the Tigerhawk logo.

Mason iterated her sentiments on responsible drinking by UI students at the meeting Thursday.

“I believe that our stance on alcohol consumption has been very consistent,” she said. “We’re not prohibitionists. We’re not against alcohol consumption.”

Yet, UI psychology Professor Michael O’Hara said he does not believe the partnership is beneficial to the UI as a whole.

“This is an area where I’m just terribly troubled,” he said. “I wish we could get away from aligning ourselves with products that have caused such suffering from our students and unwanted publicity for our institution.”

Barta said it’s hard to please everyone in a controversial situation like this, but he maintained the contract is a good choice.

“It is important that we hold [Anheuser-Busch] accountable to do what we agreed to do,” he said.

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