* Executive Summary
In 2001 spirit makers ended a long standing volunteer policy against aggressive alcohol advertising (Steiner and Steiner, 2009). Since that time, there has been an unprecedented shift toward increased alcoholic advertisements in an effort to increase market share and raise profits. This shift brings into light the challenge alcoholic companies face in balancing their fiduciary duties to their shareholders and their corporate and social responsibility to society.
This report focuses on the issues surrounding Anheuser Busch’s Spykes beverage and the corporate and social issues similarly faced by other alcoholic beverage companies.
There is growing public pressure for alcoholic beverage companies to meet their social and ethical duties to balance efforts to increase profits to their shareholders whilst protecting society from the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
Anheuser Busch (AB) is one of the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world. In 2005 AB manufactured an alcoholic beverage called Spykes It is a spirit based beverage that was intended to target their 21-30 year old legal age drinkers. Following a successful soft launch, AB was hopeful that Spykes would help increase market share and profits. Unfortunately, growing public pressure forced AB to stop selling Spykes (Steiner and Steiner, 2009).
This report looks at specific issues surrounding Spykes and its potential harm to society, considers AB’s ethical duties to society, discusses the affect of alcoholic advertising in society and addresses potential reforms to help ensure alcoholic beverage companies fulfil their ethical duties to protect society of undue harm.
Is Spykes Bad?
Spykes could be considered bad in the sense that it was likely targeted at underage drinkers. It is well accepted that alcoholic beverages are no ordinary commodity (Babor et al, 2003) and Spykes could be classified as part of the Alcopops group of beverages which are primarily consumed by underage or young drinkers. These Alcopops negatively affect the health and well being of young people (Robinson and Kenyon, 2009). Accordingly, Spykes may be considered bad for the health and well being of underage drinkers and society in general.
The World Health Organisation believes that alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of death among young people (World Health Organisation, 2002). AB elected to stop selling Spykes in response to negative public pressure. This negative pressure primarily came from Center for Science in the Public Interest who believed Spykes was being marketed and consumed by underage drinkers.
This belief was formed on the basis that AB used strategic marketing incorporating the latest technology to produce interactive arenas with impressive graphics, eye catching animation and a fancy website (Riley, 2005). This online content is generally appealing to a young audience. As Riley (2005) stated that young people are the biggest users of the internet and of advanced mobile phone technology. The alcohol industry has been quick to grasp the resulting marketing opportunities. Accordingly, stopping the sale of Spykes was the right thing to do in the context of reducing harm to underage drinkers as well as right thing to do in the context of protecting AB’s brand and public relations efforts as a socially responsible corporation.
Anheuser Busch’s Ethical Duties
Ethics refers to the concept of judgment; what is right and wrong, moral and immoral in society. It is ethically accepted that organisations run to make a profit (Steiner and Steiner 2009). Alcoholic beverage companies would argue that advertising is a promotional activity used to enhance their profit, not to attract under age drinkers to consume alcohol. Anderson (2009) argued that alcohol advertising influences young people to consume more alcohol, especially teenagers due to the sexually arousing images in the...
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