The promotion Bud Light announced last week didn’t smell right to us. If you missed it, Anheuser-Busch said that after the Cleveland Browns win their first game of the season (insert your Browns joke here), fridges placed around bars in town, stocked with Bud Lights, would unlock for the public
to enjoy. The release never said the word “free” but that was the implication. We asked a few legal pals, and none of them really had an answer as to how this would be OK or work. Well, now we know.
Bud Light never responded to our question about how the promotion actually works, but Lindsey LeBerth, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Commerce, explained it to us like this:
Anheuser-Busch sells their product to a wholesaler (distributor) who then sells the product to a permit holder (a bar, restaurant, grocery store, etc). This is the normal process for distribution in Ohio.
The addition in the case of the Bud Light promotion is that when the Browns win, an Anheuser-Busch rep will be onsite to purchase the product from the permit holder, and then the fans will receive a free beer. There is a limit of two 12 ounce beers per customer.
So, long story short, here’s an easy way to think of it: You and your friends are at a bar. The Browns win, and you say to your friends “The next round is on me!” Well, this next round is on Anheuser-Busch. Fans still get a free beer (courtesy of Anheuser-Busch), and the product is still purchased.
I mean, when she puts it that way, it sounds so easy. I still wondered if this was somehow considered a thing of value given by a manufacturer, since the purchasing being made by all parties comes with the explicit promise that all of that beer will be sold. Would that be against third-party distribution rules somehow? Once again, I was proven to not know a whole lot. LeBerth pointed me to the “bar spending” rule in the Ohio code.
(2) The manufacturer, supplier, broker, wholesale distributor, or their registered solicitor shall purchase the alcoholic beverage used in the “Consumer Product Instruction” from the retail permit holder. The price paid for the alcoholic beverage shall not exceed the price listed on the retail permit holder’s schedule of prices, as required under rule 4301:1-1-50 of the Administrative Code.
(3) A consumer may be furnished up to two servings of the below beverages as part of a “Consumer Product Instruction” event, and each serving shall be limited to the following quantities:
(a) Spirituous liquor: Not more than 1.5 ounces,
(b) Mixed beverages: Not more than four ounces,
(c) Wine: Not more than four ounces, and,
(d) Beer: Not more than twelve ounces.
So there you have it.