Is Bud Light Finally Recovering From the PR Crisis?

Is Bud Light Finally Recovering From the PR Crisis?

News by Roberto Orosa
Published: November 23, 2023

Bud Light has had a tough past couple of months, but its challenges may soon wane.

Almost three months after its controversies with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney began, the boycott started by anti-LGBTQ+ consumers started to die down.

A recent survey revealed that the percentage of Bud Light consumers who believed they were "very unlikely" to buy the beer in the next three to six months decreased from 18% in June and July to just 3% in August, showing that the brand is headed towards a potential resurgence. 

However, a new key player may be the saving grace of the company that would bring it back up to speed.

Bud Light partnered with UFC in October to become its official beer, stealing the spot from Modelo Especial. 

This rekindled partnership which started in 2008 can be linked to Anheuser-Busch InBev's decision in May to increase Bud Light's U.S. media budget for the summer. 

Between August 24 and October 23, the brand spent about $31.3 million on national TV advertising, a 56% increase from the same period in 2022, according to iSpot.tv.

The Partnership Between Bud Light and UFC

The goal of this partnership is to leverage AB InBev's global marketing reach to boost the global promotion of its sport, positioning itself to compete for sponsorship opportunities on par with prominent leagues worldwide.

"We've made a concerted effort to grow from tens of millions of dollars of ad sales for UFC to a number that would put us on par with other major sports leagues today," TKO chief financial officer Andrew Schleimer said in a statement.

Anjali S. Bal, a professor of marketing at Babson College, has called the newly rekindled partnership a "good move... This is a growing sport that is appealing to younger generations in a nonpolitical manner, and focuses on what the brand is known for — sports, entertainment, excitement and socialization.”

The Beginning of the Backlash

The pinnacle of Bud Light's controversies began on April 1, when the American beer maker teamed up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney to promote its drink. 

The video, posted on Instagram, showed Mulvaney celebrating her "day 365 of womanhood" with three beer cans sent to her by Bud Light — one of them being custom-made just for her. 

"Happy March Madness!! Just found out this had to do with sports and not just saying it’s a crazy month," she captioned.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Dylan Mulvaney (@dylanmulvaney)

The Aftermath of Bud Light’s PR Crisis

The video has since prompted a wave of anger and hatred towards the brand and Mulvaney. It also captured the attention of prominent right-wing figures, such as political commentator Ben Shapiro, who opposed the brand.

Following the backlash, Bud Light has experienced a huge drop in sales, dipping by 17% in April, with the company going as far as buying back expired beers from wholesalers. The boycott had been in full swing, with the brand's audience carrying the belief that it was pushing an agenda.

Several of the company's executives have taken leave as well. Its employees and distributors have reportedly experienced being harassed by anti-LGBTQ+ audiences that were not receptive to Mulvaney's association with the brand. 

The company even took a hit from LGBTQ+ advocates. 

The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, removed the title of Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser's parent company, as one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality" due to the company's response to the controversy. 

Bud Light was dethroned as the best-selling beer brand in America, losing to Modelo Especial, following a 23% drop in sales during May.

While several analysts have predicted its downward trajectory would take years to correct, its most recent developments may prove that the brand is budding out of its tough spot.

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