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They said boycotts rarely work. This is why Bud Light is different.

Aug 04, 2023

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When conservatives first shunned America’s best-selling beer Bud Light following the brand’s promotional beer can made for transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney, experts quickly pointed out across the media that boycotts rarely work. But week after week, Bud Light’s beer sales plunged compared with the year before.

Less than two weeks into the controversy, Anheuser-Busch shares had lost billions in market capitalization. Two months in, Bud Light lost its two-decade reign as the nation’s best-selling beer to Modelo Especial. Later, Anheuser-Busch reported plans to lay off hundreds of corporate employees.

There are two reasons the Bud Light boycott had the recipe for success when brand boycotts usually fail, according to former Anheuser-Busch executive and current Strive Asset Management President Anson Frericks. First, customers have options.

“Everywhere you have Bud Light, you also have Coors Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling, and for the vast majority of customers, they can’t really tell the difference in those brands,” Frericks said. “It’s water, it’s barley, it’s hops. Really the only thing that distinguishes those brands is the actual brand itself and what they stand for.”

Second, boycotters are getting constant feedback that their actions are having an impact. It’s not like when they boycott Target and have to wait three months for quarterly earnings to come out.

“In the beer industry, there’s data that’s reported every single week from large retail data, Nielsen, IRI, etc., where they’re reporting what the actual sales numbers are,” said Frericks, who was president of Anheuser-Busch Sales and Distribution Co. before leaving the company in 2022. “So every week, there’s this new news cycle that kicks off showing, is Bud Light down 25%, is it down 30%, is it down 27%, which almost feeds on itself.”

Anson Frericks co-founded the anti-ESG asset management fund Strive with now-Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. He insists consumers want cold beer without a side of controversy, and that’s what’s keeping Bud Light sales swirling down the drain.

For instance, for the week ending July 22, nearly three months into the boycott, Bud Light sales volume is still down 29.3% compared with the year before, while Coors Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling all saw double-digit gains, according to Nielsen IQ data analyzed by Bump Williams Consulting.

A bar graph highlighting Bud Light sales volume dipping -29.3 in contrast to Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Yuengling reporting a growing sales volume.

While Modelo Especial took the top spot in recent weekly and monthly sales, year to date, Bud Light is still the best-selling beer, but Modelo is closing the gap, Bump Williams told Straight Arrow News.

The boycott has also put a major dent in Anheuser-Busch InBev’s earnings. On Thursday, the company said U.S. revenue fell by 10.5% last quarter, while U.S. operating profits dropped by more than 28%. Still, as a whole, the company actually beat forecasts.

“What people have to remember is that Anheuser-Busch InBev is a massive global organization where they have operations in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and South America,” Frericks said. “The North American business unit really only accounts for about a third of the profits of the company. Two-thirds of it is outside the U.S. and those business units outside the U.S. are doing very well.”

“That being said, the stock is still off 15% since this controversy happened,” he continued. “So even though they might be okay from a profitability standpoint globally, this has not been a good company from a shareholder perspective as they’ve missed out on a lot of the market gains this year and they’ve also missed out relative to many of their competitors.”

To compare stock performance, Constellation Brands, Inc., which carries Modelo Especial and Corona Extra, is up 19% over the same time period, while Molson Coors, which carries Coors and Miller, is up 26%.

A month ago, AB InBev launched a public relations campaign highlighting the 65,000 Americans working behind the brand, but it has done little to bring naysayers around.

“To redeem themselves, Anheuser-Busch, they have to take clear accountability for why they got themselves into this mess in the first place,” Frericks said. “And the only way to do that is actually attack it head on, which is the one thing that they have not been doing.”

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SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: BOYCOTTS RARELY WORK. THAT’S WHAT MULTIPLE EXPERTS SAID WHEN BEER DRINKERS TOOK THEIR SHOT AT AMERICA’S BEST SELLING BREW, BUD LIGHT. BUT EVER SINCE TRANSGENDER ACTRESS AND TIKTOK STAR DYLAN MULVANEY PROMOTED BUD LIGHT ON HER CHANNEL…WEEK AFTER WEEK BEER SALES PLUNGED COMPARED WITH THE YEAR BEFORE.

 

NEWS CLIPS: Bud shares had lost more than $5 billion in market cap. Bud light could lose its status as the nation’s top selling beer. Modelo Especial is the new top selling beer in America. Anheuser-Busch plans to lay off hundreds of corporate employees.

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: THERE ARE TWO REASONS THE BUD LIGHT BOYCOTT HAD THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS, ACCORDING TO FORMER ANHEUSER BUSCH EXECUTIVE ANSON FRERICKS. FIRST, CUSTOMERS HAVE OPTIONS.

 

ANSON FRERICKS: Everywhere you have Bud Light, you also have Coors Light, Miller Light, Yuengling. And for the vast majority of consumers, they can’t really tell the difference in those brands. It’s water, it’s barley, it’s hops. Really the only thing that distinguishes those brands is its actual brand itself and what they stand for. 

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: AND SECOND, BOYCOTTERS ARE GETTING CONSTANT FEEDBACK THAT THEIR ACTIONS ARE HAVING AN IMPACT. IT’S NOT LIKE WHEN YOU BOYCOTT TARGET AND HAVE TO WAIT THREE MONTHS FOR QUARTERLY EARNINGS.

 

ANSON FRERICKS: In the beer industry, there’s data that’s reported every single week from large retail data, Nielsen, IRI, et cetera, where they’re reporting what the actual sales numbers are. So every week, there’s this new news cycle that kicks off showing is Bud Light down 25%, is it down 30%, is it down 27%, which almost feeds on itself. 

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: FOR INSTANCE, FOR THE WEEK ENDING JULY 22ND, NEARLY THREE MONTHS INTO THE CONTROVERSY, BUD LIGHT SALES VOLUME IS STILL DOWN 29.3% COMPARED WITH THE YEAR BEFORE. WHILE COORS LIGHT, MILLER LIGHT AND YUENGLING ALL SAW DOUBLE DIGIT GAINS. YEAR TO DATE, BUD LIGHT IS STILL THE BEST SELLING BEER, BUT MODELO ESPECIAL IS CLOSING THE GAP. THE BOYCOTT PUT A MAJOR DENT IN THE PARENT COMPANY’S EARNINGS. ON THURSDAY ANHEUSER BUSCH INBEV SAID U-S REVENUE FELL BY MORE THAN 10% LAST QUARTER, WHILE U-S OPERATING PROFITS DROPPED BY NEARLY 30%. SO HOW DID THE COMPANY STILL BEAT FORECASTS?

 

ANSON FRERICKS: What people have to remember is that Anheuser-Busch InBev is a massive global organization where they have operations in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and South America. The North American business unit really only accounts for about a third of the profits of the company. Two thirds of it is outside the U.S. And those business units outside the U.S. are doing very well. That being said, the stock is still off 15% since this controversy happened. Whereas the broader markets are up 15%. So even though they might be okay from a profitability standpoint globally, this has not been a good company from a shareholder perspective as they’ve missed out on a lot of the market gains this year. And they’ve also missed out relative to many of their competitors. 

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: WHICH MEANS SHAREHOLDERS, LIKE FORMER BUD LIGHT CUSTOMERS, AREN’T TOO HAPPY WITH THE BRAND.

 

BUD LIGHT AD: We grow the barley that makes your beer. I grow the rice. I grow the hops.

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: A MONTH AGO AB-INBEV LAUNCHED A PR CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTING THE 65-THOUSAND AMERICANS WORKING BEHIND THE BUD LIGHT BRAND, BUT IT’S DONE LITTLE TO BRING NAYSAYERS AROUND. 

 

ANSON FRERICKS: To redeem themselves, Anheuser-Busch, they have to take clear accountability for why they got themselves into this mess in the first place. And the only way to do that is actually attack it head on, which is the one thing that they have not been doing.

 

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: FRERICKS, NOW PRESIDENT OF THE ANTI-ESG INVESTMENT FUND STRIVE, INSISTS CONSUMERS WANT COLD BEER WITHOUT A SIDE OF CONTROVERSY. AND THAT’S WHAT’S KEEPING BUD LIGHT SALES SWIRLING DOWN THE DRAIN. FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS, I’M SIMONE DEL ROSARIO.