The scale of the conservative backlash against Bud Light was revealed on Thursday when owner Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a sharp drop in US revenue over the past three months.
The world’s largest brewer saw its second-quarter revenue in the US – its largest market – drop 10.5% after a rightwing backlash over a partnership with a transgender influencer led to a sales drop. Operating profits dropped nearly 30%.
Despite the fall in its US revenue, the company still managed to report a rise in global profits, attributed to price increases and growth in sales outside the US.
Anheuser-Busch has been struggling with the Bud Light brand after it partnered with the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a sponsored Instagram post in April. The post caused uproar among conservatives on social media, who started boycotting the brand. In protest, conservatives posted videos of themselves throwing away or, in one case, shooting up cases of the beer.
Besides Bud Light, companies from Target to Disney to Cracker Barrel have seen conservative uproar in recent months as part of a broader backlash against “woke” corporations. Typically social media backlashes are short-lived and do not have much impact on a company’s bottom line, but the strength behind the Bud Light backlash has been acute.
Amid the backlash, Bud Light put two marketing executives, including its vice-president of marketing, on leave. Brendan Whitworth, chief executive of Anheuser-Busch, said in an April statement that the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people”.
Bud Light’s drop in US revenue is not necessarily a surprise: multiple reports over the last few months have suggested sales were declining, and competitor Modelo overtook the brand as the most popular beer in the US. In late July, Anheuser-Busch announced that it would lay off 350 employees, or just under 2% of its corporate staff, in the US amid falling revenue.
“While we never take these decisions lightly, we want to ensure that our organization continues to be set for future long-term success,” Whitworth said in a statement.
As much as Bud Light appears to be in a crisis, Anheuser-Busch’s global operations have been strong. Even with the decrease in its US revenue, the company still saw its second-quarter global revenue rise 7.2% and a growth in earnings far above forecasts. Revenue grew in over 85% of its markets, including in South Africa, Colombia and China, with stronger sales for its global brands including Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona.
Anheuser-Busch said company research conducted by a third-party firm showed 80% of 170,000 consumers surveyed said they have a “favorable or neutral” view of Bud Light.
“The beer industry continued to demonstrate resilience,” the company said in its earning statement. “As part of our long-term plan, we increased investments in our key brands, invested in measures to support our wholesales and continued key initiatives such as partnerships with NFL, NBA, Folds of Honor and Farm Rescue.”
Source : The Guardian