Super Bowl ads won’t solve Bud Light’s problems but may set the tone for a comeback

Jan 31, 2024 | Canyon Crest Guide Newspaper | 0 comments

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Hannah Wyman | (TNS) St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Anheuser-Busch InBev is hoping its trio of Super Bowl commercials will win back drinkers who have sworn off Bud Light after the brand’s work with a transgender influencer sparked a boycott and tanked sales.

It’s a marketing move experts say won’t work immediately but could set the stage for a comeback.

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The company announced that it will air three different commercials on Feb. 11 during the Super Bowl broadcast. Teasers for the ad spots show soccer star Lionel Messi ordering a Michelob Ultra at a sandy shack with friends, Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales galloping in the snow and football fans enjoying bottles of Bud Light. Additionally, in Budweiser’s “Old School Delivery” Super Bowl ad, viewers will see Anheuser-Busch’s iconic St. Louis brewery.

“It’s a process. I doubt that there’s a Super Bowl ad and sales are back in March — but it sets the tone,” said Raphael Thomadsen, a marketing professor at Washington University. “It’s repairable. Memory is short in a corporate sense, so there’s always a chance to build that brand. Younger adults tend to drink more beer, so as time goes on, they’ll have more and more people they can (attract) and win back.”

Last April, Anheuser-Busch InBev sent a personalized can of Bud Light to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a marketing campaign. The move prompted some consumers, including celebrities like Kid Rock, to call for a boycott of Bud Light. Sales plummeted, and over the summer Modelo Especial dethroned Bud Light for the first time in over two decades as the bestselling beer in America.

A few Super Bowl ads won’t solve the company’s problems with decreased sales and disgruntled drinkers, Thomadsen said. It will take some time to regain consumers, he said, as many have likely developed new habits and tastes.

Thomadsen said this year’s Super Bowl ads are part of the company’s strategy to unify its drinkers and return to its glory days.

“I certainly think that Budweiser through Bud Light is trying to bring back the old magic that they had where Bud Light was there to appeal to everyone,” Thomadsen said. “They’re trying to recapture that feeling with older, familiar music and popular people.”

In the months following the controversy, Anheuser-Busch found that surveyed consumers want to enjoy their beer without debate or politics.

“They want Bud Light to concentrate on the platforms that all consumers love, such as NFL, Folds of Honor and music,” CEO Michel Doukeris told investors during an earnings call in August.

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Anheuser-Busch has been working to build back its consumer base through a new UFC sponsorship deal, a partnership with country singer Zach Bryan, noncontroversial advertising campaigns and now humorous and iconic Super Bowl ads.

“Those are good strategies and ones they should have embraced earlier,” Thomadsen said. “Getting seen with popular people — and people popular with them — is a great choice.”

Still, some Anheuser-Busch sales are dipping. During its third quarter, the company reported that U.S. revenue declined more than 13% as a result of ongoing lower Bud Light sales.

Thomadsen said Anheuser-Busch lost touch with its Bud Light customers base. After partnering with Mulvaney, the company’s response insulted and angered customers who were upset by the connection with her — and managed to insult and anger customers who supported Mulvaney and LGBTQ rights.

Hoping to capitalize on the Super Bowl buzz, Anheuser-Busch said it will take a 360-degree marketing approach, with local and national media campaigns, including on Spanish-language broadcasts, Anheuser-Busch said in a release last week.

An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson would not disclose how much the company spent on the commercial spots or when they will air on game day.

“If they can keep people’s attention in cool and fun ways, they can contribute to the brand being seen as cool and fun,” Thomadsen said of the marketing campaign.

Anheuser-Busch’s woes aren’t in the rearview mirror just yet. Union workers plan to walk off the job at 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries if a new contract isn’t signed by the end of February.

Last month, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted to authorize a strike if Anheuser-Busch can’t agree to things like job protection, better retirement benefits and higher wages. The Teamsters represent 5,000 Anheuser-Busch workers in the U.S. who brew, package and ship products, in addition to maintaining the breweries and equipment and caring for the Clydesdales.

About 450 Teamsters work at the company’s North American headquarters and brewery located in Soulard.

On Thursday, Teamsters president Sean M. O’Brien walked out of negotiations with Anheuser-Busch after presenting the company with a proposed contract and telling the brewer to respect workers and sign the contract.

“Anheuser-Busch needs to check its moral compass,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The Teamsters are more united than ever at Anheuser-Busch, and we are prepared for a full-scale strike and nationwide boycott.”

An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson also released a statement, saying “We are committed to negotiating in good faith with the union to reach an agreement that recognizes and rewards the talent, commitment, and drive of our employees.”

©2024 Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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