Transgender Ad Backlash Haunts Bud Light as Sales Still Down

Once America’s go-to beer brand, this old favorite has spent more than a year with its sales flagging following a mass boycott – and it doesn’t look like things are going to change any time soon. 

Bud Light’s Troubled Times

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Bud Light, once America’s top-selling beer seen in countless movies and intricately associated with the country’s beer culture, is struggling. 

First Quarter Disappointment

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A boycott initiated over a year ago is still causing worries for beer giant Anheuser Busch Inbev (AB Inbev), as it posted a disappointing first quarter for its homegrown sales.

The Origins of the Boycott

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In May 2023, Americans began boycotting Bud Light after a transgender influencer named Dylan Mulvaney posted an ad for the beer on their social media account, complete with a photo of a personalized can sent to her directly from AB InBev. 

Impact of a Social Media Post

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This was part of a wider promotion involving numerous influencers to try and increase Bud Light’s sales, but unfortunately, it had the complete opposite effect. 

A Shift in Brand Strategy

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When Bud Light’s marketing VP Alissa Heinersched stated the reasoning behind the promotional campaign wanted to move the brand on from “fratty, kind of out of touch humor” into a brand “that’s truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different, and appeals to women and men” it was like a rag to a red bull.

Conservative Backlash

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Following Mulvaney’s post and Heinersched’s comments, prominent conservative figures like Kid Rock, Ron DeSantis, and Tucker Carlson called for a boycott, and thousands of people followed suit.

Loss of Top-Selling Status

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Despite being America’s top-selling beer for decades, within the month Bud Light had lost that title, as sales plummeted between 11-26% amid conservatives criticizing the beer for “going woke.” 

AB InBev’s Stock Plunge

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Although they immediately cut ties with Mulvaney, AB InBev’s stock price fell by 20% within the month, and overall Bud Light sales were down almost 30% for the entire year. 

Long-Term Sales Decline

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And now, over a year since the boycott began, AB InBev has reported that sales have still not recovered. 

AB InBev’s Brand Portfolio

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AB InBev is the world’s biggest brewer and controls numerous brands like Budweiser, Corona Extra, Stella Artois, SKOL, Beck’s, Leffe, and Hoegaarden. In total, AB InBev owns more than 500 brands of alcohol.

A Decline in American Sales

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On Wednesday they released their first-quarter earnings which saw a 9.1% drop in sales in America. Although globally, the company reported a 2.6% increase in revenue, sales to retailers in the U.S. were down by almost 15% – primarily due to a lack of demand for Bud Light.

Struggles in the U.S. Market

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The amount of beer sold to stores in the U.S. dropped by 10.1%, and AB InBev’s earnings also fell by 19.7%. Worldwide, the total amount of beer sold decreased by 0.6%, with beer sales dropping by 1.3%, although sales of their non-beer drinks (seltzers and soft drinks) went up by 3.5%.

Modelo Especial’s Rise

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The next beer to take the title of best-seller was Constellation Brand’s Modelo Especial, which overtook Bud Light within weeks. Sales of Modelo Especial are up 12% so far in 2024, according to industry experts.

Rebranding Efforts

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AB InBev has been trying to rehabilitate its brand image for months since the initial boycott, although its success seems to be limited, especially in the sales figures. 

Marketing Moves

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The cans’ brief redesign to a camouflage print – aimed at sport hunters – had a negligible effect on sales, as did the company’s partnership with military scholarship charity Folds of Honor – which helps families of fallen military personnel.

New Partnerships

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In recent months, AB InBev has announced partnerships with the Olympics and with UFC, and it has released a Super Bowl advert that went back to the company’s basics – patriotism and humor. 

Limited Impact on Sales

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Whether the Superbowl advert successfully helped repair the company’s image is still unknown – although if the sales are any indication they have a lot of work cut out for them.

Impact on Mulvaney

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Mulvaney, for her part, has criticized Budweiser for their handling of the situation. She stated, “For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all.”

Criticism of AB InBev

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“What transpired from that video was more bullying and transphobia than I could have ever imagined. For months now, I’ve been scared to leave my house, I’ve been ridiculed in public, I’ve been followed, and I have felt a loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Public Scrutiny

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A spokesperson for AB InBev declined to address whether Mulvaney had been contacted.

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The postTransgender Ad Backlash Haunts Bud Light as Sales Still Down first appeared on Liberty & Wealth.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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