Bud light has used frat-boy humor and silly ads to stand apart from its competitors for years, but the beer maker is trying to grow up in a new Super Bowl ad. In the spot, Miles Teller and his wife Keleigh Sperry turn the frustrating experience of being stuck on hold with customer service into a small dance party by cracking open a few Bud Lights.
It’s a smart move from the brand, which has been working to attract younger drinkers in the face of declining sales and aging demographics. And although it’s no secret that the LGBTQ community is a core audience for Bud Light, the company has been working to appeal to them in many different ways, including releasing rainbow-colored cans for Pride Month and partnering with LGBTQ support organizations.
But the latest campaign is getting a lot of backlash, especially from conservative media outlets, which accuse Bud Light of going too far in its attempts to reach transgender people. In early April, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a video of herself drinking a can with her own face on it. It was one of a handful of cans that Bud Light had sent to her as part of a sponsorship, which she shared with her millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok.
The post went viral, and Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, quickly faced a firestorm of backlash on social media and in conservative news outlets. Some even called for a boycott of the beer, and Bud Light’s sales plunged as a result.
During an investor call last week, A-B InBev CEO Michel Doukeris downplayed the impact of the backlash by emphasizing that the single can given to Mulvaney wasn’t being sold to the general public and the promotion itself wasn’t running. He also promised financial support for distributors and others affected by the drop in sales, according to Beer Business Daily.
While some retailers and wholesalers have dropped Bud Light, most are sticking with the brand despite its rocky reputation, Doukeris says. The company is now meeting with them to “dispel any potential retailer misconceptions” and “reiterate that the can featuring Mulvaney was not a formal campaign or advertisement,” BBD reports.
But it’s unclear if any of this will help. According to a recent Morning Consult survey, Bud Light’s NPS (net promoter score) declined after the Mulvaney post, and female customers are particularly dissatisfied with the company’s perceived activism. Even if the company wins back some of those lost conservative customers, that may not be enough to offset the loss of more liberal millennials. In the long run, it’s likely the company will find itself losing market share. And for a beer that’s been around for over 70 years, that’s not good news. Bud light customer service