Action Alert: Demand FTC Action to Yank Irresponsible Beer Ads


[Due to strong interest in challenging Bud Light’s “Referee” ads, we are issuing an action alert echoing the concerns outlined in CSPI’s letter to the Beer Institute.]


Anheuser-Busch has been running a series of sports-themed ads for Bud Light that directly violate beer-industry voluntary guidelines.  The ads depict “referees" stealing beer from consumers in order to drink it themselves.  The "referees" also lie to police and evade capture and questioning.


Section 2(d) of the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code Guidelines states: “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not portray or imply illegal activity of any kind.”  The “principles” underlying the guidelines state that “Beer advertising should not suggest directly or indirectly (emphasis added) that any of the laws applicable to the sale and consumption of beer should not be complied with.  Third, brewers are responsible corporate citizens sensitive to problems of the society in which they exist, and their advertising should reflect that fact.”


Please write to the FTC and demand action to pull the plug on these blatantly irresponsible ads.


Talking Points:

• Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light “Referee” ads clearly violate both the spirit and letter of the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code.  The ads feature a group of men dressed as football game referees who first invade a party and steal beer and then lie to police officers and attempt to run away with the incriminating evidence.  Those ads send a message that clearly portrays illegal activity concerning the use of alcoholic beverages.

• The ads make light of illegal, stealthy activities related to beer consumption, implicitly condoning surreptitious underage drinking.

• The ads represent a further example of the inadequacy of voluntary alcohol advertising standards and enforcement.  The Beer Institute code provides for no independent third-party review of ads, nor any recourse or penalties against companies that violate its provisions.  After-the-fact complaints generally do not get resolved before a campaign has run its normal course.


• The Bud Light campaign reflects a lack of seriousness about even the industry’s weak advertising standards.  We respectfully request that the Commission investigate this campaign and hold companies and trade organizations accountable for ads that violate industry codes.  We further urge the FTC to demand stronger voluntary advertising standards (including third-party review and penalties for infractions) and insist on compliance with those standards.  In addition, we urge the FTC to start taking direct action to better protect youth from exposure to ads that encourage them to drink.


Fax Letter to: 

C. Lee Peeler, Deputy Director

Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Advertising Practices

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20580

Fax# (202) 326-2190


Please visit our website to view CSPI’s letter to the Beer Institute (also sent to the FTC),


Anheuser-Busch's response:


CSPI's letter to the FTC:


Beer Institute voluntary advertising guidelines,


December 20, 2004

Related Links:

CSPI’s letter to the Beer Institute

Anheuser-Busch Response

CSPI's letter to the FTC

Beer Institute voluntary advertising guidelines



Email this link


For more information, please contact:

Kim Hennemeyer, Manager of Federal Relations



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