Today, AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris made a public statement about the cooperation of his company with transgender star Dylan Mulvaney. On a conference call with investors, he insisted that producing special Bud Light cans featuring Mulvaney's likeness was "one can" and "not a campaign”.
“We need to clarify the facts that this was one can, one influencer, one post and not a campaign,” he said. The AB InBev boss claimed 'misinformation' spreading on social media about the company's team-up with Mulvaney.
Activists' call for a boycott caused the company's value to drop by more than USD 5 billion in the first few days of the cooperation with the transgender influencer. While many have accused Bud Light of defrauding its traditional consumers, others have argued that the partnership was part of a push to increase its customer base, including those who would not buy the product conventionally. (inside.beer, 14.4.2023)
Mulvaney has partnership deals with other brands, including Nike, Amazon Prime, KitchenAid, and OkCupid. However, beer and especially beers like Budweiser and Bud Light appeal to a more conservative clientele. It seems that AB InBev's marketing executives were unaware of how emotionally this target group would react to a departure from traditional conservative values.
As a direct response Georgia conservative Seth Weathers launched a beer called Conservative Dad's Ultra Right Beer. “America’s been drinking beer from a company that doesn’t even know which restroom to use. (…) Stop giving money to woke corporations that hate our values,” he said in a promotional video for his new beer. (inside.beer, 28.4.2023)
Off-premise sales of Bud Light crashed 26% through April 22, while Coors Light and Miller Lite both gained more than 13%, according to beer business daily.
In the face of intense negative publicity, AB InBev announced personnel repercussions for marketing executives involved in Mulvaney's ‘campaign’. Bud Light's VP of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, took a leave of absence while the VP for Mainstream Brand, Daniel Blake, stepped down some days after.
“With respect to the current situation and the impact on Bud Light sales, it is too early to have a full view,” Doukeris said. But “in the context of our global business, we believe we have the experience, the resources and the partners to manage this."
On Thursday, AB InBev reported first-quarter profit of USD 1.65 billion and revenue of USD 14.21 billion for the period, beating expectations. It is unclear whether this event will have a material impact on the results of the second quarter of the financial year.
Doukeris said AB InBev is providing “direct financial support” to frontline teams working for the company and its wholesalers and will be tripling media spend for the Bud Light brand over the summer. AB InBev is "fully committed to get our plans and our brands and portfolio to rebalance. (…) We are investing to make this happen," Doukeris added.