Many companies pay good money to have their product featured in a movie that’s a critical and box office success. And if it happens by accident, where the filmmakers just happen to choose that product without being paid to to it? That’s a marketing department dream come true.
Well, most of the time. Budweiser is very, very unhappy about their beer’s appearance in “Flight,” the Denzel Washington drama that debuted this winter. In case you’re unfamiliar with the film’s plot, the unhappiness stems from the fact that Washington’s character is an alcoholic, and cans of Budweiser are seen as one of the products Washington drinks (or overdrinks). Apparently Budweiser is distressed that audiences may get the impression that you can get drunk on Budweiser.
Budweiser vice president sent a letter to Paramount and Image Movers, the studios that made the Robert Zemeckis-directed film:
“We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. It is disappointing that Image Movers, the production company, and Paramount chose to use one of our brands in this manner,” McCarthy said in the letter. “We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters.” [Quote from Deadline]
According to the AP, Budweiser won’t get anywhere in this; there is legal precedent allowing trademarked products to be used in films without the product maker’s permission.
And what’s Budweiser’s big deal? First off, I doubt people are watching the movie and really focusing on the fact that it’s cans of Budweiser which are scattered around the drunk character played by Washington. And even more, people are really aware that you can get drunk on beer, regardless of brand; it’s not like anyone is watching and thinking, “Whoa, he must be an alcoholic because he drinks Budweiser. I’m going to drink Heineken so I’ll never become an alcoholic.” So calm down, Budweiser, you’re just making people aware of an issue they probably didn’t notice or care about.