Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, is taking a huge financial hit in the wake of its troubling advertising campaign featuring a transgender influencer. While some observers initially believed the move only had the potential to alienate more conservative beer drinkers, it has actually driven away a far broader base of consumers, and the effects are still being felt three months later.
The beer company has lost a remarkable $15.7 billion from its market value after teaming up with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender activist. The partnership was launched during the NCAA basketball championships, when the activist shared a sponsored post on their Instagram account promoting March Madness. The video showed Mulvaney dressed like Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s while drinking cans of Bud Light featuring ‘her’ face on them.
Much of the woke crowd is whining that the people who are boycotting Bud Light are simply “bigots” who are intolerant of transgenderism, but Beer Business Daily editor Harry Schuhmacher believes it’s more about people wanting to avoid debates at a time when political division is already extremely high in the U.S.
“Most people don’t care about this issue and don’t want to get roped into a conversation,” he said. “Therefore, they’re not going to buy the beer.”
Switching brands is very easy given the broad range of alternative beers, and some people may simply be looking to avoid bringing political discussions into their leisure time. In a big hit for Anheuser-Busch, their competitors have added an incredible $3.2 billion in market value to their own brands while Bud Light keeps dropping.
The owner of Coors Lite, Molson Coors, has seen its market value rise by 20 percent to $2.2 billion, while Heineken is enjoying a $1 billion rise. Bud Light sales, meanwhile, were down by 23 percent for the week ending on May 6.
Bud Light is offering free beer as it deals with the backlash
The company has been scrambling to deal with the backlash. They recently informed wholesalers that they will buy back any cases of the beer that are not sold before they expire. They also launched a promotion called the U.S Budweiser Family Memorial Day Rebate online, which offers a rebate of up to $15 on a 15-pack of Bud Light; some retailers set their prices for the packs at $15 so the beer would be free for consumers once they obtain the rebate in hopes of moving unwanted stock.
Meanwhile, the high demand for alternatives as summer approaches could see some competitor beers encountering a shortage.
The executive responsible for the disastrous campaign, Alissa Heinerscheid, had said that her goal in her role as Bud Light’s vice president of marketing was to update Bud Light’s “fratty” branding, which she deemed “out of touch.” She and her boss, Budweiser group vice president for marketing Daniel Blake, have now been placed on leave over the decision to work with the controversial influencer. Although the company released a statement saying the execs had “decided” to take a leave of absence, the Wall Street Journal reported the decision “wasn’t voluntary.”
Neither Bud Light nor Budweiser have tweeted in more than a month after replies to previous tweets were largely filled with criticism over its partnership with Mulvaney. Budweiser has since teamed up with Harley-Davidson motorcycles for a decidedly more masculine marketing approach, with commercials featuring mechanics working on motorcycles and enjoying beer in limited-edition cans featuring the company’s logo.
Schuhmacher said he was surprised by the extent of the backlash over the transgender ad campaign, noting: “Nobody imagined it would go on this long. It seems random — it struck a nerve. I’ve never seen anything to compare it to, in all of the [consumer packaged goods] industry. It’s a real shock.”
Sources for this article include: