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A Beer Commercial Is Stopped Cold
NCAA's Rejection of Miller Ad for Final Four Is Part of a Brewing Controversy

But on the eve of the wildly popular basketball tournament, NCAA officials barred CBS from airing the commercial during the games, citing the controversial ad campaign's lack of taste.

But the relationship is coming under attack as concerns about binge drinking on college campuses escalate. Incidents of unruly fan behavior, postgame riots and the salacious content of the ads themselves have added to the brewing controversy. Now, some public-health professionals, academics and reform-minded critics say it's time colleges sever their ties with beer-makers altogether, including barring televised beer ads from broadcasts of games.

The NCAA bans advertising of hard liquor during its championships. It limits the amount of beer and wine ads in game programs (no more than 14 percent of total advertising content). And it permits just 60 seconds per hour of televised tournament games to be devoted to ads for beer or wine.

"If you just take the beer commercials out of college sports media, I'm not sure what effect that will have because beer commercials appear in many, many other places," Brand said.

The Washington-based Beer Institute, which represents industry, insists it doesn't.

"There's no question that the beer producers are competing among each other," said George A. Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "However, Advertising 101 tells us there are a number of purposes of advertising -- including attracting new users and encouraging current users to increase consumption."

-- 1,400 college students die every year in alcohol related accidents.

-- Alcohol contributes to 500,000 injuries among college students each year.

"Of course they should!" said Carter, president and CEO of the Miami-based Knight Foundation, which has long funded efforts to restore integrity to college sports. "The problem is when you rest your economic viability on the money that television gives you, TV will say, 'Where do you think we get our money from?' "

"I'd give them a 'D,' at best," Hacker said. "They're totally inconsistent. On one hand, they eliminate advertising of all other kinds of alcohol. Then they give beer companies a monopoly. So they're selling out their students to beer companies, and nobody else."

As Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, Shalala urged NCAA officials in 1998 to sever the tie between college sports and drinking "completely, absolutely and forever."

"Most of us are like-minded about it," Shalala said, referring to a potential ban on beer sales. "We would realize it in terms of income. But I certainly think we should raise the issue. I promised myself I would after getting covered with beer."

The role of alcohol in fueling such mayhem was among the topics at a recent NCAA-sponsored summit on Sportsmanship and Fan Behavior.

With a chance to contend for the national title on the line, the revelry started at bars around campus the Thursday night before the Saturday game. For many, game day dawned with a so-called "Kegs and Eggs" breakfast. Jubilant fans rushed the field following the 14-9 victory. But the celebrations turned to riots as the night wore on. After the bars closed, more than 100 fires were set, cars were overturned and storefront windows were smashed.

Said Shalala: "I don't think the problem is the beer companies. The problem is us. We've got to decide what's appropriate for our college campuses."

Posted on aef.com: April 10, 2003.


Liz Clarke, The Washington Post - April 5, 2003

Copyright © 2003 The Washington Post Company. All rights reserved.