New industry data show that sales of Bud Light have declined for another week amid the controversy over the company’s decision to engage in a social media campaign with transgender influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney.
In the week starting on May 8, U.S. retail sales decreased by 28 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by consulting company Bump Williams. That’s an even bigger slide than the 23.6 percent plunge in sales for the week ending May 6, compared with the same week a year ago.
Bud Light’s competitors have seen increases in sales during the same time period. Sales of Coors Light increased by 17 percent, and Miller Lite sales increased by 15 percent during the second week of May, the data show.
In early April, the controversy erupted when Mulvaney, a biological male, posted a personalized Bud Light can and wrote “#BudLightPartner” on multiple social media accounts, drawing confusion along with calls for a boycott of the brand. Some country music singers indicated they would cut ties with the product, and some industry analysts suggested that Anheuser-Busch was seemingly choosing to alienate its customer base by partnering with Mulvaney.
Amid the sales decline, some local distributors have attempted to take action to bring back sales of Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch products. For instance, the Alabama-based Bama Budweiser distributor released an advertisement that sought to distance itself and Bud Light from the Mulvaney social media posts.
“We too at Bama Budweiser are upset about it and have made our feelings known to the top leadership at Anheuser-Busch,” Steve Tatum, with Bama Budweiser, said in the ad, according to multiple news reports. “The voice of the consumer has been heard, and Anheuser-Busch has taken action.”
The ad also stated: “Mulvaney is not under contract with Bud Light. The videos you may have seen are Mulvaney’s own social media posts that went viral, and many web-based news outlets have distorted the story.” It didn’t elaborate on the distortions.
“You deserve to know the truth, and life is too short to let a couple of individuals decide what you can eat or drink or spend your hard-earned money on. And remember, making friends is our business, not enemies,” the ad said.
Tatum told AL.com that he’s received positive feedback for his ad campaign. However, he said there has been no response from Anheuser-Busch or Bud Light corporate officials. “I’m just trying to look after Bama Budweiser,” he said. “I’ve worked too hard to give it all away.”
Two Bud Light marketing executives, Alissa Heinerscheid and Daniel Blake, were placed on leave, according to the company. Anhueser-Busch told a St. Louis-based news organization last week that Heinerscheid would be replaced by Todd Allen, who recently served as Budweiser’s global marketing vice president.
“Given the circumstances, Alissa has decided to take a leave of absence, which we support,” an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson said in a statement at the time. “Daniel has also decided to take a leave of absence.”
On April 14, two weeks after Mulvaney’s post, Anheuser-Busch U.S. CEO Brendan Whitworth posted a statement stating that the company never “intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” although the statement didn’t mention Mulvaney or the boycott. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
Weeks later, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, Michel Doukeris, told the Financial Times that the Mulvaney situation was not an official partnership and that one can was produced with Mulvaney’s face, in a bid to distance the brand from the controversy.
Doukeris added that there was “misinformation and confusion” that circulated online that included a Bud Light can with Mulvaney’s likeness on it. He added said that it was “never intended … for general production and sale for the public.”
During an earnings call earlier this month, Doukeris said that Anheuser-Busch would triple its investment into Bud Light over the next summer and that the firm would provide “direct financial support” to affected front-line workers such as distribution workers and truck drivers. The decline in Bud Light sales also represents about 1 percent of the company’s overall global volume, he said.
Robert Lachky, the former chief creative officer at Anheuser-Busch, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a recent interview that the Mulvaney Bud Light can was a significant marketing mistake. Corporate executives, he added, appear to be out of touch with the beer’s consumer base.
“The minute you step into the political or religious spectrum, when you know your target audience is going to have a real issue with this, you know you’ve alienated at least half of your target audience,” he said. “In the end, people don’t like getting preached to, especially when it comes to drinking beer.”
“None of these marketing folks has ever been to a NASCAR race, none has been to a football game or a rodeo,” Lachky noted. “That’s insanity. That’s marketing incompetence.”
Article cross-posted from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times.