Naughty Brewers Sully Santa in Beer Promos

St. Nick Used to Promote Beer, Despite Prohibition in Industry Code


WASHINGTON—MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have been very, very naughty this holiday season, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The watchdog group says that the companies deserve lumps of coal—if not subpoenas—in their stockings for using the iconic image of Santa Claus to promote binge drinking events in Atlanta, Boston, Washington, and other cities. Though the events are ostensibly charitable, they run afoul of the beer industry's voluntary advertising and marketing code, which has a very specific prohibition on the use of St. Nick's likeness: a Santa clause, if you will.

CSPI today filed a complaint with the Beer Institute, the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that monitors compliance with the voluntary code. The complaint was copied to representatives of the Federal Trade Commission, the companies involved, and the North Pole.

Coors Light is sponsoring "Running of the Santas" bar tours in several cities this month. Billed as the "world's naughtiest pub crawl," the events are promoted on Facebook and MySpace. Drinkers in the Atlantic City "Running of the Santas" are promised they will be "escorted by the wonderful girls from Hooters." Bud Light is sponsoring a "Santa Pub Crawl" this week in Atlanta, which it similarly promotes on MySpace.

"These tacky promotional events once again raise the question of whether the beer industry's voluntary marketing and advertising code is worth the paper it's printed on," said George A. Hacker, director of CSPI's alcohol policies project. "How realistic is it to let the beer industry's lobbyists write and enforce the rules if not even Santa is safe? Besides, everyone knows Santa prefers milk—skim, actually."

CSPI is asking the Beer Institute's Code Compliance Board to advise MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch to withdraw from the Santa-related promotional events.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]