MillerCoors sues over Bud Light’s corn-syrup ads
MillerCoors LLC said it sued the Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC on Thursday, alleging that the rival brewer’s ad campaign associating Miller Lite and Coors Light with corn syrup is false and misleading.
The dispute began when AB InBev ran several ads during the Super Bowl pointing out that Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup in their brewing processes. It continued after the game, including on billboards describing Bud Light as having "100 percent less corn syrup" than either competing brand.
MillerCoors argues in its complaint that the ads "deceive beer consumers into believing that there is corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup in Miller Lite and Coors Light." There is no corn syrup in either beer by the time it reaches consumers, the company says, and high-fructose corn syrup is never involved at any point.
MillerCoors is seeking an order barring Bud Light from repeating corn-syrup claims against Coors Light or Miller Lite and compelling Bud Light to run "corrective" advertising.
Anheuser-Busch, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, said in a statement that it stands by its ad campaign and that the lawsuit is baseless.
"The recent Bud Light campaign is truthful and intended to point out a key difference from Miller Lite and Coors Light," said Gemma Hart, vice president of communications at Anheuser-Busch. "Those beers are brewed with corn syrup; Bud Light is not."
The lawsuit is only the latest salvo between the rivals since the Super Bowl. MillerCoors has promised free Coors Light in certain bars every time Bud Light launches another attack. It also has pulled back from a planned cross-brewer marketing push designed to win drinkers back from spirits and wine.
Earlier this week, Miller Lite released ads purporting to pick up where Bud Light ad shoots leave off, depicting actors who choose Miller Lite in real life.
Bud Light immediately released a counterattack that it had previously recorded in anticipation, pivoting back to its corn syrup message.
Although the corn-syrup battle is a higher-profile spat than most, brands sue each other over advertising from time to time. Sprint Corp. sued AT&T Inc. last month over a campaign it said falsely tells customers they are getting 5G service on their smartphones. AT&T said it would fight the suit.
But marketers often take their disputes to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, as AT&T did over 5G ads from Verizon Communications. The National Advertising Division found Thursday in AT&T’s favor, recommending that Verizon discontinue or change the ads to avoid implying that it offers a 5G mobile wireless network.
That decision isn’t binding, and Verizon said it would appeal.
Write to Nat Ives at [email protected]
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