Park Service/Budweiser Co-Branding Campaign Raises Questions

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Park Service/Budweiser Co-Branding Campaign Raises Questions

Off-Limit Corporate Partnerships on Table as NPS Waives Alcohol Promotion Ban

Washington, DC — The National Park Service’s new $2.5 million “co-branding” campaign with Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest beer brewery, is a misguided means of reaching out to youth and broadening public support for parks, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). To consummate the deal, NPS had to waive its long-standing policy against identifying national parks with “alcohol or tobacco products.”

The exclusive “Proud Partner” agreement allows Budweiser to roll-out “patriotic packaging featuring the iconic silhouette of Lady Liberty,” in the words of a corporate press release. The authorizing memo signed by NPS Director Jon Jarvis on January 21, 2015 calls for “aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands…with a corporate entity that has the same goals surrounding relevancy, diversity and inclusion” so as “to distribute our brand across the country.” The memo rationalizes promotion of beer sales by claiming that it will integrate “A-B’s Responsible Drinking Campaign.”

This high-profile public linkage of a government agency and an alcoholic beverage concern raises a number of knotty questions which NPS has not publically addressed, including –

  • Other Anheuser-Busch messaging, such as its two-year “Up for Whatever” campaign featuring the slogan “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” on Bud Light bottles. The company has since apologized for this slogan while pushing 139 other “light hearted” labels. It also plugs a promotion of “all things beer” called “Let’s Grab a Beer” to hike suds sales;
  • The partnership will feature “a pretty epic surprise concert this summer” (in the words of a corporate spokesman) and other “musical events” which may be disruptive in a park setting; and
  • The conflicts with the NPS “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” effort to improve American “lifestyle choices” and its Green Parks Plan to reduce solid waste, such as beer cans and bottles.

“Once it has gotten into bed with its corporate partner, the Park Service cannot pick and choose which market messaging it will embrace and which it will ignore,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the agreement is part of an effort by NPS to raise a $1 billion corporate endowment by its upcoming 2016 centennial. “It is both telling and troubling that the current Park Service leadership sees its core values best reflected in beer ads.”

The memo waiving fundraising restrictions signals that there may be more such co-branding campaigns in the offing with “wine, beer and spirit companies” as well tobacco companies and park concessionaires. The reason for these relaxations is to further the “goal of attracting a younger population to the NPS…”

“If the Park Service thinks its path to ‘relevancy’ runs though alcohol promotions, then America’s best idea has truly lost its way,” added Ruch, pointing to the absence of evidence that corporate co-branding of any kind builds lasting support for national parks. “By the Park Service’s logic, that epic concert at Woodstock should have turned Baby Boomers into a generation of farmers.”


Read the Park Service waiver of no alcohol promotion policy

Visit controversial Bud Light “Up for Whatever” campaign (you must be 21 to access)

See AB’s new “Let’s Grab a Beer” campaign (you must be 21 to access)

Look at “Proud Partners” and NPS plan for billion-dollar corporate endowment

View Anheuser-Busch press release on park partnership (you must be 21 to access)

Examine NPS Director’s Order #21 governing fund-raising

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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