As Bud Light, once a beloved contender among the country's favorite beers, spirals down to the 14th spot, the repercussions resonate far beyond the brand itself.
A recent YouGov survey reveals the decline in Bud Light's ranking, casting it below competitors like Pabst Bue Ribbon, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Lite. This seismic shift in popularity jeopardizes the livelihoods of the 65,000 people whose economic well-being is intricately tied to Anheuser-Busch InBev's success.
Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth has taken full responsibility for the controversial promotion involving transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney that caused sales to plummet. In an interview with CBS, Whitworth emphasized that he is ultimately accountable for the actions of the company, expressing concern for the people whose livelihoods depend on Anheuser-Busch.
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"It's the impact honestly on the employees that weighs the most on me," he said.
Whitworth called on people not to punish the workforce but rather to attribute blame to him. He made it clear that he acknowledges the repercussions of the promotion and urged consumers to continue supporting Bud Light.
While Anheuser-Busch has attempted to downplay Mulvaney's role in its overall strategy, Whitworth confirmed that the company will maintain its partnerships without making any changes. He did not explicitly apologize for the collaboration with Mulvaney, despite some consumers demanding an official acknowledgment of the mistake as a prerequisite for restoring their patronage.
The company's actions have been perceived as a breach of the unspoken "bar rules" that strictly discourage discussions of politics or religion. As long as the company fails to acknowledge or address the concerns, it is anticipated that the boycotts will persist.
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In an effort to revive sales and regain consumer trust, Whitworth and Bud Light's brand head Todd Allen launched a new summer campaign. The company plans to triple its investments this year, including increased spending on sports, primetime and cable television advertisements. It remains uncertain whether these efforts will be sufficient to rectify the situation and rebuild the brand's reputation.
While Whitworth admits that dealing with the boycott has caused him stress, he remains devoted to Anheuser-Busch, describing it as an "institution" closely tied to the American flag. Despite the pressure to address the escalating situation, Whitworth is not the sole person facing criticism.
Alissa Heinerscheid, the first woman to lead Bud Light in the brand's 40-year history, faced significant backlash from consumers following her collaboration with Mulvaney to expand the brand's reach. Her comments about the brand being "out of touch" and in need of a makeover further fueled the controversy. As a result, Heinerscheid, along with Anheuser-Busch's global Vice President of Marketing Daniel Blake, was placed on administrative leave.
As one of the largest alcohol brands in the world for decades, the fall from grace is opening an unprecedented opportunity for investors in the alcohol space. For example, Molson Coors Beverage Co. is up 32% year-to-date as it continues to take market share from the struggling beer brand.
Another play is investing in burgeoning alcohol brands on platforms like StartEngine, which allows anyone to invest in startups including investing in StartEngine itself. Currently, the platform boasts over 13 alcohol brands, including some of the fastest-growing private alcohol brands in the country.
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