Anheuser-Busch, the American arm of the beer brewing powerhouse Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), recently filed an application to trademark the phrase: “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF ESPORTS”.
Every time a big brand dips their toes (or more accurately their money and influence) into esports, the industry gets legitimized even more. AB InBev is one of the largest, most influential brands out there, so to have them get on board is a big deal. But it does raise some questions.
If you just consider the language used in the statement they are trying to trademark, “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF ESPORTS”. It’s a very broad statement. So broad that it shows that AB InBev might be a bit ignorant of the industry. Imagine a brand tried to lay claim to: “The official beer of sports”. All sports, really? You’d get laughed at, because football and lawn bowls are both sports, but in terms of the players, spectators and energy levels, they’re not in the same realm. No brand could be the official brand of two vastly different sports, because the markets are so different. Your brand’s identity doesn’t support both.
Even if you wanted to make a slightly less broad claim, say: “The official beer of football”, it would still be too broad. There are too many other stakeholders and players already in the industry. What right does one beer brand, or any brand, have over others to make this claim?
And that raises another question about the Ab InBev trademark application, what right do they have to claim that they are “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF ESPORTS”? Some of their beers may have sponsored events around the globe, but people have almost certainly spent a lot of time competing and spectating esports while drinking other beers. How can they prove that they are more official than anyone else?
If a brand wanted to be the official sponsor of an esports event or league, they’d be well within their rights. They could give funding to the event, they could plaster their branding everywhere and they could serve their product (if it’s a live event). Then they would officially be the brand of said esports event. But unless AB InBev intend to fund and brand every esports event, then can they really be “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF ESPORTS”?
There’s also the morale dilemma that needs to be discussed. There are a lot of people in esports under the legal drinking age – all the various drinking ages. And not just under age, there’s a ton of young kids in esports. Should a beer brand be allowed to have such influence over an industry that children are so heavily involved in?
AB InBev are trying to trademark this statement for marketing purposes. It’s a good idea, because it would be an immense claim to be able to put under your name. And here’s the unfortunate part, marketing works. If kids see a brand is the official beer of esports, they’re going to want it. Is that something the esports scene should allow to happen?
Here’s the kicker, the lawyer who showed this application to the world on Twitter, Josh Gerben, proceeded to hashtag his tweet with #eSports. A massive error that anyone truly involved in the esports scene would know not to make. The Associated Press even ruled on it and it’s esports, not e-sports or eSports. You’re welcome Paul Chaloner.