Presidential product placement


The Obama beer bash in the aftermath of the Henry Louis Gates incident has turned into an unplanned demonstration of the power of product placement, giving free air time to four lucky brews.

Barack Obama selected a Bud Light (which we still think of as a US brew but is actually owned by a Belgian company), Gates a Jamaican Red Stripe, and Cambridge officer Joseph Crowley a Blue Moon, an ale from Miller/Coors and the only made-in-the-USA selection. At least those were the reported selections prior to the meeting.

When it actually took place, Obama and Crowley had stuck with their original picks; Gates switched to a Sam Adams Light, from his own home market of Boston. And VP Joe Biden was there as a late invitee, drinking a non-alcoholic brand called Buckler.

Over at, they are displaying a screen shot of Fox News Channel in which a numerous bottles of unselected brands are on display and being discussed.

Obama managed to catch a little heat from within his own party for going with an Anheuser-Busch product. According to Bloomberg, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) fired off a letter expressing regret at Obama’s choice of the brand taken overseas by InBev, saying he should have gone for something from Sam Adams. “I stand ready if you need any assistance in obtaining any of these high-quality Massachusetts-owned and –brewed beers,” he said. Neal must have been happy about Gates’ switch.

Bloomberg also spoke with a Miller/Coors exec who said he would have preferred that Obama select a Miller Lite rather than a Bud Light, but who was glad to have the spotlight on beer in general. Also, his disappointment was no doubt placated to a degree by Crowley’s Blue Moon selection.

RBR/TVBR observation: These brands are getting free, spontaneous, non-partisan coverage in virtually all media – you just can’t buy this kind of publicity. We suspect that public relations departments at other brands are scrambling to somehow get their names into the mix.