Advertisements for Budweiser beer, which have featured the words ‘Buuuuud’ (French for Goooaaal and the “nickname” AB InBev gave its brand) since the start of the Men’s World Cup, have recently become widespread in France on the internet, in shops, and on public transport despite the French ban of alcohol advertising stipulated by the Evin’s law. But now the AB InBev campaign has been declared illegal and is banned.
The Association Addictions France has taken legal action over this slogan and ads campaign. It violates the Evin’s Law because of its apparent connection to the world of football and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where France has advanced to the final.
The verdict is now in: the AB InBev ads campaign was ruled illegal and the ads must also be removed from the public transport across French cities.
Addictions France sues world’s No. 1 beer giant
AB InBev is the largest beer producer in the world. In France the beer giant controls the brands Leffe, Stella Artois, and Budweiser – called Bud in France.
Addictions France has called the judge for injunctions over a number of practices that violate the Loi Evin (“Evin’s law” – largely banning alcohol advertising in France) during the World Cup:
- The slogan “Buuuuuud” is a sport allusion: it is reminiscent of the exclamation that French sports commentators scream when a goal is scored (“buuuuuuut”).
- Activists found that the advertising extends to unauthorized surfaces: some trams are completely covered with advertising, as well as large advertising tarpaulins at train stations in Paris.
- The marketing of beer under the “King of beers” brand is a completely subjective superlative.
- For Addictions France, it was clear that the campaign aimed to attract the attention of the general public, including the youngest, by associating the brand with the cheers fans felt during the tournament.
The court agreed with the Addictions France: all the elements detected by Addictions France were classified as violating to the Evin’s Law.
For example, the judge banned the use of the terms “Buuuuud”, regardless of the number of ‘u’ once it exceeds the number of “one” and “King of beers” in advertising, on bottles and on packaging.
From December 11, 2022 and for a period of three months, the AB Inbev Group will therefore be forced to remove its advertising and products on which these elements appear, failing to do so will lead to a fine of €1,000 per violation per day.
Movendi International provides a resource page with more than 10 articles about the French alcohol advertising ban, called Evin’s Law.
“Bud” as symbol of abusive advertising at sporting events
This landmark decision is a reminder of the importance of subjecting the marketing of alcohol brands to public health requirements. It punishes Budweiser’s illegal advertising strategy on the occasion of the men’s football World Cup.
The Association also noted that beyond the “Buuuuud” brand and massive billboard campaign, Bud was collaborating with the world of culture and sport to gain visibility on social media.
In fact, the brand hosted a private party at the start of the World Cup in collaboration with a fashion designer, an events agency, and former international football player Djibril Cissé. Thanks to the reach of these actors on social networks, the beer brand is said to have reached more than 2 million people.
In this context, Addictions France reminds of the fact that social networks are a medium that is mainly used by the under 25-year-olds.
Government action is urgently needed
Beer giants AB InBev (Budweiser), but also Heineken or Carlsberg, have demonstrated their willingness to launch global alcohol marketing campaigns to inseparably link alcohol use to high-profile sporting events in their effort to drive alcohol use and profits. But these campaigns break French law and cause harm to people and communities.
For instance, in 2017 a study entitled “Foul Play: Alcohol Marketing During UEFA Euro 2016” revealed that Carlsberg chose to ignore the spirit of the French law governing alcohol advertising. Researchers found more than 100 alcohol marketing references per televised match program in Britain, and in France.
In addition to deliberately violating the Evin’s Law, the alcohol industry is also lobbying to undermine, worsen, and disband the alcohol advertising ban. A study from 2022 exposes the long-term lobbying strategies and arguments that Big Alcohol deploys to erode Loi Evin.
Concerning these facts, Addictions France calls for bigger commitment and ambition by public authorities and the judiciary: the alcohol industry’s advertising practices need much better rules and limits to better protect people and communities from alcohol marketing. This should include alcohol advertising bans on the internet and social networks, as well as substantial penalties for Big Alcohol companies violating the law.
Already in 2020, alcohol advertising ban won case in the High-Court
In France, the so called “Loi Evin” or the Evin’s Law comprehensively regulates alcohol marketing and largely bans alcohol advertising. Nevertheless, despite the legal repercussions Big Alcohol breaks the law or attempts to circumvent it.
In 2020 a landmark case against such a breach of the Evin’s Law was won in the French High-Court, reaffirming the stipulations of the Evin’s Law.
How the Evin Law works
The articles relating to alcohol in the ‘Loi Evin’ can be summarised in the following way:
- A clear definition of alcoholic beverages is given: All alcoholic drinks over 1.2% alcohol by volume are considered alcoholic beverages.
- Places and media where advertising is authorised are defined.
- No alcohol advertising should target young people;
- No alcohol advertising is allowed on television or in cinemas;
- No alcohol sponsorship of cultural or sport events is permitted.
- Alcohol advertising is permitted only in the press for adults, on billboards, on radio channels (under precise conditions), at special events or places such as wine fairs or wine museums. When advertising is permitted, its content is regulated:
- Messages and images should refer only to the qualities of the products such as degree, origin, composition, means of production, patterns of consumption;
- A health message must be included on each advertisement, such as “l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé” (the abuse of alcohol is dangerous for health).
Understanding France’s Alcohol Burden: High Alcohol Mortality Requires Urgent Action
The products and practices of the alcohol industry are causing serious harm to people and communities in France. In 2021, Inserm, the French public research organization dedicated to health, released a collective expert opinion on the alcohol burden in France. They reported preventable deaths caused by alcohol are higher in France than anywhere else in Europe. In fact, alcohol is the second largest cause of preventable death.
The authors present three recommendations to reduce the French alcohol burden: improve regulations, intensify prevention messages, and systematically screen, with better monitoring.
This is the context of Budweiser’s latest campaign to push alcohol on the French people, through the football World Cup. The example illustrates that alcohol companies like AB InBev put their private profits over the health and well-being of the people in France.