Colleges: If Bud Light cans are a problem, check your bookstore

Administrators at several colleges are upset about new Bud Light cans that come in school colors. For example, “Purple-and-gold cans are being sold near the campus of Louisiana State University, and red-and-gold containers near Iowa State University” [“Team-Color Bud Cans Leave Colleges Flat” — Wall Street Journal, 8/21/09]. According to the article in the Journal, “many college administrators contend that the promotions near college campuses will contribute to underage and binge drinking and give the impression that the colleges are endorsing the brew.”

I understand these officials not wanting to see anything that might encourage underage or excessive drinking. But I find it somewhat strange that this message is coming from people who run universities that sell–in their own campus bookstores–products bearing the school’s colors and logo and that are clearly designed for alcohol.

According to the CU bookstore, this pitcher is a great addition to any home bar or tailgate party.

According to the CU bookstore, this pitcher is 'a great addition to any home bar or tailgate party.'

For example, Colorado University is mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article as being upset about the Bud Light cans that come in CU colors, but then sells products such as this CU glass pitcher that would make “a great addition to any home bar or tailgate party,” according to their website.

Boston College is another one of the schools who has asked that the Fan Cans stop being distributed near their campus. But, you can pick up one of these BC tankards from their bookstore and just fill it from a keg on days those Bud Light cans aren’t available.

At Texas A&M, they don’t want Anheuser-Busch selling beer cans with school colors, but you can feel free to keep any beer you’d like cold and show your school pride at the same time with one of their collapsible can huggers.

Finally, there’s Stony Brook University, whose president sent a letter to Anheuser-Busch, calling the campaign “categorically unacceptable.” According to the Wall Street Journal article, “Stony Brook recently launched a national program called Red Watch Band, which seeks to harness school pride and ‘positive peer pressure’ to discourage heavy drinking.”

Available in the Stony Brook University Bookstore

Available in the Stony Brook University Bookstore

I honestly think that a program encouraging students to look out for one another like that sounds like a great idea. But I’m confused as to how having the controversial Bud Light cans sold near campus doesn’t mesh with their program designed to curb heavy drinking, yet being able to grab products like a Stony Brook University fluted shot glass from their bookstore is ok. The same fake ID that can buy the Bud Light in cans bearing school colors can also buy something to fill school-branded shot glasses.

According to the Journal article, Anheuser-Busch “says it will drop the campaign near any college that makes a formal complaint.” In the meantime, it’s likely that a lot more students know about the special edition Bud Light cans and to look for them in stores because of the publicity the backlash is giving the campaign.

Could these cans “contribute to underage and binge drinking?” Maybe. But the same thing could be said about some of the items for sale in campus bookstores under the control of people crying foul at Anheuser-Busch.

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How’s this for fan relations?

I really like what Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers did here. A kid caught two foul balls during a game this week, within a few pitches of one another and they put the video online.  It’s the type of thing that will drive traffic to their website and it shows fans they care–it’s not often a fan does something like this and it’s nice to see them giving it this exposure. Now, MLB has a potentially viral video on their hands and a lot more people are becoming aware of a great baseball experience many of us may otherwise never have known about. Nice move all around.

Hat tip to Big League Stew.

Readers (and PR people) deserve better

If a news outlet is going to run a story that includes comments about an organization, shouldn’t the reporter contact the organization to get their side of the story and to–at the very least–make sure that what’s been said is accurate? And shouldn’t an editor be making sure this is happening so that readers get the full story? It’s Journalism 101 to me, but I’ve been running into issues along these lines a good bit lately, including one today.

The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana ran a story that mentions ABCTE, the non-profit I do the PR for, and the article contains this quote about our program from someone in the education field there:

“It’s a test that measures minimum competency in subject areas, that is accepted in nine other states. I think it’s a slap in the face to teachers because there’s no demonstration of pedagogy and it’s a quick fix, granting license on spot.”

The quote is filled with inaccuracies and this could have been avoided had the reporter called us. Contrary to what’s stated above, ABCTE exams test for more than “minimum competency” and ABCTE actually does cover pedagogy and tests for it in the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam, which all candidates must pass before earning their certification. The program takes the average candidate 8 to 10 months to complete. It is quite rigorous. I won’t get any further into these details on the program here (anyone interested can read this blog post) because I want to get back to my main point:

All it would have taken was a phone call from the reporter and this story could have given readers a much more complete picture. And then an editor should have been asking the right questions before moving this story forward. Repairing the damage caused by misinformation can take a great deal of time and it’s unlikely you’ll reach everyone who read the initial story.

I realize that the newspaper industry is facing tough financial times and that many don’t have the staff they once did–they’re looking to get the work done by fewer people and that doesn’t always lead to the best results. But not doing the fundamental things required to make sure you give your readers an accurate, well-rounded story isn’t likely to lead to a brighter future. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Make every effort to get the story right. Readers should, if nothing else, be able to trust that a news organization has done that.

Sky’s the limit

JetBlue’s All-You-Can-Jet Pass is a fantastic marketing idea. It should help fill seats during a “slow period for airlines” [source] and the buzz it’s generating is hard (if not impossible) to buy. How much would you pay to have your promotion included on the news ticker that runs along the bottom of the CNN screen, or to have it trend on Twitter or pop up via word-of-mouse in people’s in-boxes and instant message windows all across the country? This is a genius promotion for word-of-mouth, viral buzz.

JetBlue also has the opportunity to capitalize further on this promotion, even after the sale ends next week. I’d love to see them use blogs and video to share stories of people getting the most out of their JetPass. For example, why not use new media to follow an independent musician who is using his/her pass to play as many cities as they can in one month. Or a business traveler (preferably Michael Scott) meeting with as many clients as possible. Or someone visiting family throughout the country. Maybe some of these people will squeeze over $1000 of travel out of this $595 deal. Great! Tell us about it or, rather, help these customers tell us about it using the web. Build buzz and then bring the promo back again during another traditionally slow period. Future JetPass buyers will have these great stories to relate to.

In addition to putting several different people’s experiences online, JetBlue can establish #jetpass as their official tag of this campaign on Twitter and encourage people to tag their tweets as they take advantage of the deal. JetBlue can interact and retweet their favorites (they’ve already started to do a little retweeting, as people tweet about the trips they’re planning).

I’ll stop there. This is a great promotion already and the buzz it will create could be far from over.

What’s in a Headline?

Something in today’s Washington Post has me puzzled. The Post reprinted a Baltimore Sun article about last night’s Orioles game, a game Baltimore lost 6-5 to the Boston Red Sox. The headline in The Post reads, “Guthrie, Orioles Blasted by Boston.” In the game, the Red Sox scored six runs and hit three home runs off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, while the Orioles put up five runs and hit two home runs off Red Sox starter John Smoltz. The Orioles nearly had a third home run, but Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury robbed Luke Scott of one.

So, the starting pitchers have similar lines in the box score, in what was a one-run game–and the O’s were inches away from putting another run on the board with Scott’s near homer. Yet, The Post says Guthrie and the Orioles got “blasted.” I checked the Baltimore Sun, where this article originally appeared. The headline: “Red Sox defeat Orioles, 6-5, in opener.” That headline seems a little more appropriate for a one-run game. “Blasted” would have been more appropriate if the Sox had won something like 10-5 or hit a couple more home runs.

So, what’s up with the Post headline? Maybe it was written in a hurry, without much thought or by someone who just isn’t up on baseball (this is, afterall, the same paper that has called a hockey puck a “ball” in a photo caption)? Is the creator of that headline loyal to the Nats or D.C. and looking to make the team up the road’s performance look worse than it really was? Or maybe they’re a Sox fan? 6-5 isn’t a blasting. Why not go with something similar to, or exactly, what appeared with the original article in The Sun?