Anheuser-Busch has gotten much attention in recent weeks for its plans to rename Budweiser, its king of beers, America through the Olympics and the November elections.
While the temporary name change has been described as a shrewd move to capitalize on feelings of patriotism, a different marketing strategy that the beer company and its distributor have used in Eastern North Carolina has left a bad taste with one of the state’s Native American tribes.
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday accusing Anheuser-Busch and R.A. Jeffreys Distributing Company of illegally using the Lumbee logo and its “Heritage, Pride & Strength” slogan in convenience store advertisements for Bud and Bud Light.
In the 18-page complaint, filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina, attorneys for the Lumbees contend the advertising above beer coolers in Lumberton and Raeford leaves the false impression of an affiliation between the tribe and Anheuser-Busch and the Goldsboro-based distributor.
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The Lumbee logo is a circle divided into four quadrants with yellow representing the east, red for the south, black for the west and white for the north. A Lumbee Pine Cone Patchwork surrounds the Circle of Life, which ultimately stands for the four qualities of a balanced life – the spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual.
The logo also is a symbol of the coming together of the old and the new for a tribe that has been recognized by the state of North Carolina since 1885. The Lumbees have approximately 55,000 enrolled members, most of whom live in Robeson and adjacent counties in southeastern North Carolina.
The banners above the beer coolers in Raeford and Lumberton are used “in a way that many members of the tribe find offensive because alcohol abuse is often associated with Native American culture,” the lawsuit states.
Efforts to reach Anheuser-Busch and its distributor were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed by Raleigh attorneys Christopher M. Thomas and Catherine R.L. Lawson, states that out-of-court efforts to get the advertisements pulled failed.
In a Facebook post last week, Harvey Godwin, the Lumbee tribal chairman, informed members that the companies had not been authorized to use the logo “or an image of a tribal dancer in a recent beer advertisement posted at several area convenience stores.”
“As alcohol and drug abuse are often associated with Native American culture, the use of the Lumbee tribal brand and an image of a Native American dancer in an advertisement promoting an alcohol product is viewed as particularly offensive to Lumbee People,” Godwin said in his June 10th post. “I made contact with officials today at Anheuser-Busch to resolve this matter. ...As your Lumbee Tribal Chairman, I vow to make sure those responsible for this offensive ad will be held accountable.”