Ohio State students thirsty for a cold one on their sun-soaked walks to class might not welcome the newest addition to the University Village bus fleet.
The off-campus apartment complex unveiled its Natural Light bus in July, nicknamed the Natty Caddy, featuring panel advertisements for the beer that cover the exterior of the bus, said national marketing director of Homestead U Ryan McGahan.
Homestead U is a property management company responsible for University Village along with other properties in the greater Columbus area, McGahan said.
University Village representatives referred The Lantern to McGahan for comment.
The Natty Caddy, along with four other University Village buses, makes multiple trips daily on a seven-stop route to transport tenants to and from the OSU campus, McGahan said.
University Village, located at 505 Harley Drive off of Olentangy River Road, operates its buses every weekday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and every weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to the University Village website.
While four of University Village’s traditional red-coated buses are still shuttling tenants, who need an ID to ride any of the University Village buses, only one bus dons the Natural Light beer advertisements, McGahan said.
He said University Village was approached by a public relations company in California this summer about ways the property could better promote itself. McGahan declined to disclose the name of the company responsible for setting up the partnership.
Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, which makes Natural Light, and University Village reached a deal in early 2013 that sets the Natural Light bus advertisements to continue through July 2014, McGahan said.
McGahan declined to disclose the cost of the deal with Anheuser-Busch. He said the deal was something University Village did to help separate itself from its competitors.
“It was just a way to stand out, differentiate ourselves from the competition and really push that UV resident lifestyle,” McGahan said. “It is a great place to live, we have great amenities and this bus is just bringing more attention to the property.”
Anheuser-Busch did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Homestead U operates similar buses advertising Natural Light on other college campuses in Ohio and around the country, including Ohio University, University of Arizona and Texas Tech University, McGahan said.
Although many students on campus are not of legal drinking age, McGahan said University Village is not aiming to influence or offend anyone with the Natural Light ads.
“Our intention is not to bring any negative effects to students with our bus. We have special duty police officers and trained staff at all our events that serve alcohol to make sure no underage students drink,” McGahan said.
University Village hosts events for its tenants throughout the semester.
McGahan said University Village has not been contacted by OSU about the Natural Light bus advertisements, and he would not count on it happening in the future.
“I don’t expect them to (contact us). I feel that if it was an issue, they would have contacted us by now,” McGahan said.
Dave Isaacs, OSU Student Life spokesman, said OSU has no voice in the matter.
“University Village is not affiliated with the Ohio State University and we have no control or any say in who they sell advertisements to for their buses,” Isaacs said.
Some students who live at University Village, like first-year in business administration Junyi Liu, said the Natty Caddy is a nice switch from the norm.
“It’s a good thing for UV,” Liu said. “All of my friends at OSU always ask me ‘Is that a real bus?’ and when I tell them it is, they say, ‘No way.’”
Liu also said he doesn’t think students around campus have a problem with the bus.
“I don’t think they really care. Most students will laugh and find it funny, but it isn’t hurting anyone,” Liu said.
Some students, though, said they have noticed it and are not impressed.
“I thought it was crazy, even if it’s not officially associated with OSU,” said Courtney DeRoche, a third-year in international studies. “The bus doesn’t send a very professional message on this campus and if I were a parent here to visit my child, I’d be pretty disheartened when I saw that bus.”
Second-year in exercise science Gee Mensah said he doesn’t understand why the bus services OSU’s campus.
“I understand why they (University Village) do it from a business standpoint, but I think it’s just kind of stupid,” Mensah said. “It makes sense with college kids around, but they’re basically advertising beer every day to a bunch of underage students.”