By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD, AP
ST. LOUIS (Oct. 20)- Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. said it will quit marketing a drinking game called "Bud Pong" after discovering that some people were imbibing beer during the game instead of water, as directions specified.
The nation's biggest brewer rolled out "Bud Pong" in July, sending kits to beer wholesalers in 18 states. The bar game is played by bouncing ping pong balls into cups of liquid, with participants taking a drink if they lose a point. Anheuser-Busch suggested players fill the cups with water. A New York Times article Sunday described players using beer instead.
"It has come to our attention that despite our explicit guidelines, there may have been instances where this promotion was not carried out in the manner it was intended," Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman Francine I. Katz said in a statement Tuesday.
While it might seem odd for a brewery to market a water-drinking game, Katz said in an e-mail statement that Anheuser-Busch attached its name to "Bud Pong" in the same fashion the company sponsors NASCAR races or Major League Baseball games.
"The intent of this program was to provide adults who socialize in bars with a fun activity," Katz said in a statement. The company said it was pulling the promotion, and did not want perceptions of the "Bud Pong" game to conflict with a $500 million campaign to promote responsible drinking, Katz said.
It is irresponsible in itself to suggest that water be used during a bar game, said Glynn Birch, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"I don't put any credence in it," Birch said. Such games can be especially dangerous for younger drinkers and college students who get wrapped up in the competition and drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol, he said.
Anheuser-Busch Chief Executive Officer Patrick Stokes said earlier this month the company is looking for ways to keep consumers drinking beer as opposed to cocktails or hard spirits. Even though beer drinking has lost some ground in recent years, Anheuser-Busch remains by far the most dominant U.S. beer company.
Brewing about 100 million barrels of beer annually, Anheuser-Busch controls roughly 50 percent of the national market share, according to the Edward Jones investment company in St. Louis. Second-ranking Miller Brewing Co. controls 19 percent of the market.
To keep beer in the forefront, Anheuser-Busch has launched separate marketing campaigns nationally, such as distributing recipe books that encourage bartenders to mix beer cocktails using ingredients like grenadine and tomato juice.
10/20/05 07:39 EDT