Will this one be any different? A few weeks ago, Anheuser-Busch launched its biggest NFL advertising campaign ever, in yet another attempt to reverse a significant decline in Bud Light beer sales triggered by a collaboration the company made with a transgender influencer back in March.
The “Easy to Sunday” campaign includes television and online ads set to run during the season, along with limited-edition Bud Light cans for 23 NFL teams with team colors, logos, and a player illustration. For whatever reason, nine NFL teams opted out of emblazoning their brand on the Bud Light cans. Are they distancing themselves from the politically polarizing brand? Perhaps a smart move.
Consumers seem to be fatigued with progressive, DEI-centric “woke-washing” campaigns, and want their brands to focus on their respective products and services. Bud Light is an example of how consumers can signal their displeasure with their wallets, as sales for the once top-selling beer has recorded a double-digit drop since April.
A lot is riding on this advertising launch… clearly the objective is to win back customers and shareholders (despite the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust recently purchased 1.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch, valued at around $95 million).
I am skeptical and believe this new campaign will not do much to resuscitate Bud Light to their pre-March numbers, if at all. Some marketing experts believe this will simply blow over, as consumers tend to forget. But this situation seems different, and the poor sales numbers backup the assertion.
A key component to winning back customers during a crisis is to acknowledge and apologize. While the brand reacted swiftly, it waffled a bit and never formally apologized. I shared my thoughts on this in a previous blog post, and ironically it included promoting special-edition bottles and cans that say, “We are sorry.”
The first NFL Sunday kicks off this weekend. The industry experts and I will be watching the impact of this new promotion very closely. If it does not move the needle in a positive direction by the end of October, then Anheuser-Busch will have to make some drastic half-time adjustments, or at that point… punt (via an apology).