It’s been all downhill for Bud Light since the brand’s ill-advised partnership with Dylan Mulvaney. While it seems like a lifetime ago that promotional cans were sent to Mulvaney, thus sparking the worst public relations campaign since the new Coke fiasco, it has, in fact, only been a few months. However, a lifetime of damage has been done in only a season on the calendar.
The brand has attempted to course correct and save its flagging product, even going so far as to fire the clueless leadership responsible. They also have redesigned cans, hired professional athletes, and attempted ad campaigns aimed at making the beer cool to younger drinkers.
Rather than just apologize and admit they messed up, which likely would have been more effective than all of the spin on Madison Avenue, Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, decided to throw $100 million at Dana White and the UFC in a possible last-ditch attempt to save the beer.
On Tuesday, Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a massive 13.5% decline in U.S. revenue in the company’s third quarter. Sales began their freefall in April, back when Mulvaney and the brand began their ill-fated affair and was spurred on by Bud Light’s marketing vice president calling for the brew to shed its “fratty” image.
The company also reported a 17.1% decline in North American sales during the third quarter. North American sales fell 14.5% in the quarter as Bud Light lost its perch atop the U.S. beer market, ceding that honor to Modelo Especial.
These numbers fly in the face of global sales, which grew in roughly 80% of markets. However, total volume fell by 3.4% because of the boycott in America that has made Bud Light simply an afterthought at bars and restaurants across the nation.
In a shot across the bow at new top dog Modelo, AB InBev opened up the checkbook and threw a ton of cash at UFC chief Dana White, hijacking the “honor” of being the official beer of the UFC, from the Constellation Brand beer Modelo.
Whether or not the new partnership will be successful remains to be seen, but the UFC is in bed with Bud Light for six years, and you can be certain that the labeling will be conspicuous during UFC broadcasts. ESPN reported that it is the largest sponsorship agreement in UFC history, but Dana White attempted to steer the conversation away from money and more toward nostalgia.
When asked, White claimed: “They were the first beer company that we really did business with. They were our first real big sponsor when we were getting started, and now we’re back with them. I know all the controversy and everything else, but for myself, going into a long-term deal with another sponsor, I want to be with somebody that I’m actually aligned with.”
While White tries to appeal to history and sentimentality, many beer drinkers have moved on and found other options. White continued: “They employ 65,000 Americans. They have thousands of vets that work for them. They spend $700 million a year with U.S. farmers, using their crops to make their products, and many, many other great things that Anheuser-Busch has done in this country.”
These may be factual numbers, but it may not matter. The damage done by the Mulvaney fiasco and the subsequent refusal to fall on their sword may be more than many beer drinkers are willing to forgive. Either way, if you are a UFC fan, be prepared to be bombarded with ads for the brand ad nauseam.
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