ISU officials ask to discontinue Fan Cans

Sarah Haas

ISU officials requested Tuesday that Anheuser-Busch discontinue the distribution of red and gold beer cans after the supply currently in the market is sold.

In a letter addressed to Frank Z. Hellwig, Anheuser-Busch’s senior associate general counsel, University Counsel Paul Tanaka asked the company to end its Fan Cans promotion.

“The cardinal and gold color scheme represents great pride and symbolizes institutional loyalty. Your campaign has undermined that,” the letter said.

Tanaka said in the letter that ISU logos were not used in the Fan Can promotion, but he argued that “the manner in which the campaign has been promoted by Anheuser-Busch and others has had an actual impact on the University through confusion in the market.”

John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, said he first heard about the product nine or 10 days ago. The promotion was brought to the administrators’ attentions and they decided to look into the situation. Officials were concerned the beer cans have similar colors to those of Iowa State, even though the cans were not ISU promotional products.

“When you provide a product like that in this community, it sort of implies a connection with the university because of the colors,” McCarroll said.

Rich Parizek, manager of Campustown Liquor, 218 Welch Ave., said the cans were released on Aug. 10. Before school began, he said he sold between 35-50 cases of the cans by the end of each weekend.

“The only concern I had was did they have ISU’s permission to do this,” Parizek said.

He said he heard from his colleagues that Anheuser-Busch had discussed the Fan Cans promotion with the NCAA and assumed the universities had agreed to the program.

But McCarroll said Anheuser-Busch did not alert Iowa State to the promotion beforehand.

“What I’m saying is that the school colors are symbolic of the school itself, and so by using those colors in the context of the start of the football season really tends to suggest that the university is endorsing this promotion, and we, of course, don’t want to be seen as promoting it,” Tanaka said.

In the letter, Tanaka argued that “universities have protectable rights in their color schemes in the context of athletic competition.”

He cited a Federal Court of Appeals case involving Louisiana State University and Smack Apparel Company in which the university claimed that  Smack Apparel shirts that used LSU color schemes caused consumer confusion.

The court decided that it is unacceptable for a company to “obtain a ‘free ride’ by profiting from confusion among the fans of the universities’ football teams who desire to show support for and affiliation with those teams.”

Parizek has been told by his distributors not to expect more cans. His store no longer has the cans in stock.

“As far as I know, they are going to be no longer available,” he said. “If you find them in Ames you’re lucky, but as far as I know there are no more Fan Cans.”

Katie Archer, senior in liberal studies, said she thought the cans were a fun symbol of school pride.

“I thought they were really cool,” Archer said. “I mean, if you’re in college and you want to drink, you’re going to drink. It’s not going to be a matter of what’s on the can, although I’m sure it would have been a profitable promotion.”

Yet Archer said she understands why ISU administrators are reluctant to be associated with Anheuser-Busch’s products , especially in light of the university’s attempts to help curb binge and underage drinking.

“I’m sure the administration didn’t want it, but on a college level it’s just another way for you to support your school in a fun way,” she said.