Things just don't smell right in the men's restrooms at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. And I say that as an Anheuser-Busch
The park itself is great and has lots of subtle and tasteful marketing for the company's beers. There are the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, for example. There are a few bald eagles, which have been a part of Anheuser-Busch's logo for more than 100 years. There's plenty of relatively cheap beer in the park, available in the new aluminum pint bottles. All in all, visitors tend to get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling about Anheuser-Busch (especially after sampling the product).
The problem comes in the restrooms, where captive audiences are confronted with questionable advertising. Above the urinals are different quizzes that compare Anheuser-Busch's American heritage with SABMiller's South African ownership. Some are rather innocuous, along the lines of:
Which is the only All-American brewer?
B. SABMiller Brewing Company
Answer: A. Anheuser-Busch is the only American-owned major brewery, while SABMiller is South-African-owned.
But the tone of some of the quizzes gave me an uneasy feeling, almost as though they were using South Africa as a dirty word.
I have two major problems. The first is giving Miller free advertising. Budweiser is the king of beers, not Miller. It's always the inferior company that tries to get its name associated with the market leader, not the other way around. So, while I can understand that kind of marketing coming from the underdog, Anheuser-Busch should stay above the fray and stop sending the message that it's scared of Miller. I just don't like seeing Miller's name mentioned dozens of times in a Busch theme park.
The second problem is this: In a wonderful theme park that is based on international culture (there are six "themes": Scotland, Italy, Ireland, France, Germany, and England), the restrooms portray an ugly sort of jingoism. It's one thing to say you're proud to be America's only major brewer, but quite another to denigrate Miller for not being American. ("We hope you enjoyed the Apollo's Chariot ride in Italy. Doesn't Miller stink for not being American?")
The volume of Anheuser-Busch brands produced overseas by company-owned breweries, as well as exported beer, is growing nicely and made up about 6% of sales in the first quarter. Does management look upon those operations as inferior to its U.S. counterparts?
This is just one shareholder's opinion, but I think Anheuser-Busch should zip up those quizzes and tinker with some other form of urinal advertising.
Rex Moore 's favorite roller coaster is Apollo's Chariot. He owns shares of Anheuser-Busch.