Park Service waives alcohol ban for Budweiser promotion

Park Service waives alcohol ban for Budweiser promotion
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The National Park Service is waiving its ban on using alcohol in fundraising for a $2.5 million “co-branding” campaign with beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser.

The Park Service is entering the two-year agreement to attract millennials to parks and raise millions for the National Park Foundation, the agency’s private-sector fundraising partner, according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

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Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch is the world’s largest brewer with a stable of brands, including Budweiser and Natural Ice. The federal agency’s no-alcohol policy usually extends to partnerships.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis approved the deal in a January memo that the employee group released Thursday, and said it would be part of Anheuser-Busch’s “responsible drinking campaign.”

It’s also part of the centennial of the Park Service’s creation, which it is celebrating next year.

The memo called for “aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands ... with a corporate entity that has the same goals surrounding relevancy, diversity and inclusion ... to distribute our brand across the country.”

The deal allows Anheuser-Busch to release a “limited-edition patriotic packaging featuring the iconic silhouette of Lady Liberty” for its Budweiser brand, it said in a corporate press release. It will also host “a pretty epic surprise concert this summer” in a national park.

PEER complained that the deal violates the Park Service’s longstanding no-alcohol policy, and goes against the agency’s principles of promoting healthy lifestyles and responsibility.

“If the Park Service thinks its path to 'relevancy' runs through alcohol promotions, then America's best idea has truly lost its way," Jeff Ruch, the executive director of the group, said in a statement.

PEER also criticized Anheuser-Busch for the recent controversy over Bud Light bottles that called it “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” Critics said the message would encourage sexual assault and drunk driving. The company apologized and stopped producing bottles with that message.

The agreement between the beer company and the Park Service gives the agency the right to approve messages related to the campaign, as well as input in Anheuser-Busch’s musical events under the campaign.  

Park Service Spokeswoman April Slayton said the agency has previously waived its alcohol rules for partnerships successfully before, and the public did not formally object to the Budweiser deal.

“These partnerships are also in keeping with the direction of Congress to leverage private support in tandem with public investment in advance of the NPS Centennial, as reflected in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which authorized additional avenues for donor recognition in national parks,” she said in a statement.

Clayton said Anheuser-Busch’s charitable activities align well with the Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign, which is its effort to get more people into parks in the run-up to its centennial.