The beer company that made Bud light has been hit with a boycott from social media users and some public figures. It’s also been punished by its distributors, whose sales have slumped as a result. The company promised to spend heavily on the brand after it saw its sales slide, but some wholesalers say that it’s not enough.
One wholesaler that sells the brand said it had seen a drop in sales of 61% this week at its bars. Another company that sells the product said draft sales at its bars had dropped 58% this week.
That’s because customers are turning to competitors who have reclaimed their market share, including Bud Light competitor Founders Brewing Co., according to data from BeerBoard, a company that tracks restaurant and bar sales. Bud Light’s US sales fell 6% this month, while its competition rose.
Amid the backlash, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris didn’t mention Mulvaney during an investor call but decried misinformation and pointed out that the company’s social media promotion with Mulvaney had lasted only one day. He also said that the cans featuring the influencer weren’t intended to be sold to the general public, despite rumors to the contrary. He added that the company is providing financial support for delivery drivers, sales representatives, and wholesalers who are struggling with Bud Light’s declining sales.
The company also denied that it fired its marketing department over the partnership with the transgender influencer and the rollout of LGBTQ Pride-themed Bud Light cans that feature various pronouns, which were part of a year-old campaign in Canada. But a satirical website published the claim, and some social media users shared it as fact.
In the end, experts say that Bud Light’s move into the culture wars was a bad idea. It may rebound eventually, but the brand could have a harder time returning to its traditional core audience, who feels betrayed by the beer’s alliance with a transgender activist.
It’s not clear how long the boycott will last, either. Experts point out that boycotts are short-lived, and consumers’ zeal for the boycott will wane once the media spotlight dims and the buzz dies down.
Nevertheless, the incident highlights the importance of companies having plans in place for dealing with social media backlash, said Manveer Mann, an associate professor at Montclair State University’s Feliciano School of Business. She said Nike learned that lesson in 2018, when it featured Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who refused to stand for the national anthem, as its new face of its “Just Do It” campaign. But she said Bud Light probably should have thought more carefully about its plan to work with Mulvaney, a political operative who advocates for LGBT rights. She said the brand risked alienating its conservative, religious base if it had done that. And that’s a big problem in today’s politically divided climate. She also warned that a boycott could lead to “real harm” for a beer brand. Bud light customer service