Bud Light falls further from grace after last year’s controversy

Bud Light can’t seem to shake last year’s controversy. 

The iconic beer brand has just suffered another blow after consumers ignited a new boycott of its products, this one stemming from a social media campaign that was attacked for being “woke.”

After Bud Light, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch (BUDFF) , lost the No. 1 spot as the top-selling beer brand in America to Constellation Brands’ Modelo Especial in 2023, Bud Light has now slipped down to the No. 3 spot as another Anheuser-Busch brand took its place as No. 2.

Related: Another major beer company faces calls for a boycott

Bud Light falls in popularity

According to recent sales data from NielsenIQ, Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra has surpassed Bud Light in sales in the four weeks ending July 6. Modelo accounted for 9.7% of beer sales in the U.S. while Michelob Ultra ranked second at 7.3%, and Bud Light only represented 6.5%.

The data comes after Anheuser-Busch revealed in its first-quarter earnings report for 2024 that its U.S. revenue declined by 9.1%, and its sales-to-retailers also shrunk by 13.7%, which the company claimed was “primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light.”

Bud Light’s downfall began in April last year after it featured Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, in a social media campaign that promoted a $15,000 giveaway.

Consumers took issue with Mulvaney’s advocacy for transgender rights, and criticized Bud Light for going “woke.” The beer brand then faced a boycott from consumers, which was backed by celebrities such as Kid Rock and Travis Tritt.

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Soon after, Bud Light was reportedly being sold for less than water as the boycott grew in popularity, and certain production plants that crafted the beer had to be shut down as sales began to wane.

The boycott appears to have put a major dent in Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. earnings last year, as they declined by more than 10% during the second quarter in 2023, which resulted in the company losing $395 million in earnings compared to the same time period the year before.

Bud Light pivots ad strategy in attempt to recapture market share

Amid the backlash, Bud Light attempted to salvage its image through various ad campaigns. Last year, during the boycott, Bud Light debuted a commercial called “Backyard Grunts,” which featured Kansas City Chiefs football player Travis Kelce. 

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In the commercial, men are seen letting out drawn-out grunts as they settle into lawn chairs in a backyard while holding cans of Bud Light beer. It was clear that this commercial was aimed towards gaining back the support of male consumers, but the ad struggled to reverse the damage of the boycott. 

Earlier this year, Bud Light took a different approach with its advertising and decided to lean more into using humor. 

For its Super Bowl ad called “Easy Night Out,” it shows a group of friends having their wishes granted by the “Bud Light Genie,” with each wish getting more outrageous as the night progressed. The commercial featured celebrities such as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, rapper Post Malone, and UFC CEO Dana White.

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