Miller fires back

Suit claims distributors putting A-B friendly stickers on Miller Lite products

May 28, 2004 - SABMiller has unleashed the lawyers after Anheuser-Busch launched its "Unleash the Dawgs" campaign. Miller Brewing Co. went to court this week to stop A-B from activities that Miller claims are damaging its sales.


In a motion filed in U.S. District Court, Miller alleges that Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, lists actions that go beyond traditional advertising. Distributors allegedly are placing 3-by-5 stickers on Miller Lite products that contain phrases "Queen of Carbs" and "Owned by South African Breweries," according to the motion.

Miller provided photos to the court of Miller Lite with stickers that bear the Bud Light logo and say, "All light beers are low in carbs. Choose on Taste."

The suit identified markets where the alleged vandalism took place, including Richmond, Va., Charlotte, N.C., and California.

Francine Katz, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of communications and consumer affairs, said company doesn't have any knowledge that such stickers are being placed on Miller products. "That is absolutely against our policy," she said. "... None of our company-owned wholesalers have done anything of the sort."

Anheuser-Busch's "Unleash the Dawgs" print advertising campaign, launched May 20, was designed to help company wholesalers prepare for the Memorial Day holiday and the beginning of the peak season of beer sales, Katz said.

The print ad that appeared in USA Today shows a bottle of Budweiser accompanied by a script that says, "the king of beers, American brewed since 1876." The ad also shows a bottle of Miller Lite and says "Queen of carbs, South African owned," Katz said.

The suit also challenges the A-B advertising. Besides criticizing the ads as sexist and homophobic, the suit claims they position Lite as heavy in carbs. Miller Lite has about half the carbs of Bud Light. The suit also claims that the charge "owned by South African Breweries" is literally false. Miller Brewing Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of SABMiller. The predecessor of the current company, created when Philip Morris Cos. sold Miller in 2002, was known as South African Breweries.

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