Bud Light Lost $1.4 Billion in 2023 Due to Boycott

Bud Light Lost $1.4 Billion in 2023 Due to Boycott
Bud Light, made by Anheuser-Busch, sits on a store shelf on July 27, 2023 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The producer of Bud Light beer lost around $1.4 billion in 2023 due to the boycott after its transgender advertisement.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, a multinational based in Belgium, reported record revenues for 2023 for its global sales. In the United States, however, it was not like that for the world’s largest brewer.

Its “full growth potential was constrained” by its U.S. business, the company said, where sales were hurt by a boycott of Bud Light over a sponsored Instagram post with Dylan Mulvaney. The company lost an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue from the boycott.

Beer makes up the lion’s share of Anheuser-Busch’s revenue.

Bud Light sales tanked after the company’s partnership with Mr. Mulvaney last April sparked an anti-trans backlash and calls for a boycott. The backlash was swift, with some conservative influencers and musicians calling for a boycott. For many consecutive months, Bud Light saw a decline in sales and was overtaken by Modelo, owned by Constellation.

The firestorm saw the Mexico-brewed lager Modelo Especial dethroning Bud Light the following month as America’s top-selling beer, a title the brand had held for more than two decades.

Anheuser-Busch made multiple changes to its marketing team and reportedly fired two top executives. The brand also began partnering with well-known NFL figures such as current Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce, Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, and Emmitt Smith, the Dallas Cowboys legend.

From May through February, Bud Light recovered only 1.2 percentage points of lost market share, CEO Michel Doukeris told investors Thursday. The pace of the recovery is picking up, he said, but it’s still only 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points every three to four weeks.

“It’s not at the fast pace that we were expecting or that we’ve been working for. But nevertheless, progress is in place,” he added.

Even during Super Bowl Sunday in February, when beer sales jumped overall, Bud Light saw sales drop by about half, in a sign that the boycott is still going strong.

In 2023, Bud Light was the top-selling brand during the Super Bowl, according to analytics firm Union.

Some analysts were not impressed with the recovery disclosed by the company so far.

“In the US, performance remains very underwhelming with revenue down at double-digit rates as the group lost market share,” Aarin Chiekrie, an equity analyst at online investing platform Hargreaves Lansdown, said Thursday.

There was better news for shareholders on Wednesday, when the company reached a tentative agreement with the Teamsters union in the United States, averting a strike of 5,000 workers who had been prepared to walk out at midnight Thursday.

And Anheuser-Busch struck an optimistic note about the outlook for its U.S. business.

“Our beer market share (in the United States) has seen continued gradual improvement since May through the end of December,” it said.

Meanwhile, shares in AB InBev’s Asia business, Budweiser Brewing Company APAC, closed nearly 7 percent lower in Hong Kong Thursday, as profits attributable to shareholders declined because of a one-off customs charge in South Korea.

Overall sales volumes in China also fell in the fourth quarter, even as sales of premium brands grew in the double digits, Anheuser-Busch said.

Earlier this month, meanwhile, former President Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social to give Bud Light “a second chance,” while calling the transgender influencer posts a “mistake of epic proportions.”

Despite the advertising blitz, last month’s data suggest that the brand has seen a nearly 30 percent year-over-year sales decline, according to Bump Williams Consulting, which analyzed NielsenIQ data.

Anson Frericks, a former Anheuser-Busch executive and public critic of the company, told Fox Business that the brand will continue to struggle if it doesn’t apologize for the Mulvaney promotion.

“They haven’t done a good job of climbing out of this ditch at all. You still have sales that are down 30% week over week, and that’s despite them last summer spending three times their planned marketing budget on Bud Light,” Mr. Frericks said earlier this month.

“The biggest problem is that they’ve lost trust with their customers and they still haven’t gone out and personally asked for their customers to come back to them,” he added. “And until they restore that trust, I don’t think this brand is going to turn around and get back to growth anytime soon.”

In an effort to win back some of its market share, Bud Light partnered with right-leaning comedian Shane Gillis this year.

CNN Wire and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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