‘King of Beers’ taps into Diddle

Shawntaye Hopkins

Students walking into Diddle Arena will see signs displaying the words “Bud Light.”

But sorry. No beer.

J.B. Distributors, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products, had signs placed in Diddle Arena last month as its latest cornerstone partner.

The Bowling Green company made a verbal agreement with Western in October to become one of the six cornerstone partners.

But the beer advertisements say nothing about the beverages being served behind the concession stands.

Beer will not be served in Diddle.

More than 50 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s advertising is dedicated to consumer awareness and sportsmanship, Athletic Director Wood Selig said.

“It’s not like we’re selling alcohol at the concession stands,” he said. “It’s no different than Houchens.”

Pepsi, US Bank and Houchens Food Stores have all recently made written or verbal agreements to become cornerstone partners.

As cornerstone partners, companies enter contracts of five to 10 years and agree to donate a combined $5 million to help Western pay bond debts for the Diddle renovation.

None of the four partners have signed contracts yet, Selig said.

It isn’t yet known how much J.B. Distributors will give as a cornerstone partner, Selig said. He estimated that each cornerstone partner will give about $1 million.

The Anheuser-Busch product advertisements are intended more to promote consumer awareness than brand awareness, Selig said.

Bill Bohannon, marketing director at J.B. Distributors, said the company plans to educate students on consumer awareness by offering them educational materials, speakers and programs.

“The reason we wanted to get on board is Anheuser-Busch spends more money than anybody on education in terms of alcohol,” he said.

J.B. Distributors plans to work with Western to offer solutions to problems with alcohol that administrators might see on the Hill, Bohannon said.

“Our whole point of being there is to offer solutions,” he said.

Jimmy Feix, a former Western athletic director and football coach, said he understands the reasons for having J.B. Distributors as a cornerstone partner.

But Feix said he believes athletics should not be mixed with alcohol and the ads may be influencing the wrong people.

Many Western students are not yet 21, the legal drinking age, Feix said.

“It seems like we’re advertising to a group that can’t drink anyway,” he said.

There will always be people who view advertisements that were not intended for them, Selig said.

Selig said the message of sportsmanship and personal responsibility is part of the reason Western made J.B. Distributors a cornerstone partner.

Western plans to have at least six cornerstone partners, but no plans have been made for the other two, Selig said.

“The cornerstone partners are an exclusive group with a shared vision and shared goals of helping restore the glory to E.A. Diddle Arena via renovation,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]