As Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB) continues to struggle with finding any strategy to resurrect the moribund and once dominant brand, the company has launched a new ad campaign called “Easy Round” featuring NFL legends Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith.
The first ad in the campaign features Manning and Smith tossing cans of Bud Light around to happy patrons in a friendly-looking bar. Smith told Fox Business, “We have a good time in the bar and having great fun and great laughs and enjoying that fan experience.”
The campaign comes as Bud Light continues to face great difficulty in recovering from the devastating fallout of a controversial and ill-advised marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Bud Light's new Peyton Manning commercial is roasted by beer drinkers who are are still boycotting the brand.
— OutKick (@Outkick) December 4, 2023
Unlike typical social media boycotts, the backlash against what long stood as America’s favorite beer brand has persisted, revealing a gross misalignment with the traditional Bud Light customer base.
AB’s second-quarter financials painted a mixed picture. Even though operating profits improved and sales grew in international markets, U.S. sales volumes and retail store sales continued to plummet. Leading in the “Easy Rounds” campaign, every attempt to rehabilitate the brand’s image has fallen flat.
— Custom Rogue (@customrogue) December 2, 2023
The lesson for corporate marketers is that advertising dollars alone cannot recapture lost public trust and confidence overnight. When large consumer product companies venture into sensitive political topics, the risk involved rarely compares with whatever reward might be obtained.
Bud Light’s response to the backlash leading up to the new campaign has been especially slow-footed and clumsy. As a result of the rapidly falling sales numbers, top American retailers have been reallocating prime shelf space away from Bud Light in favor of more competitive brands.
AB is touting the new ad campaign to nervous stockholders, with CEO Michel Doukeris saying in a recent investor call, “In the U.S., we are listening and actively engaging with our consumers. They want to enjoy their beer without a debate.”
Other efforts by Bud Light to salvage the brand have included marketing partnerships with popular UFC fighters and other sports personalities. Doukeris added in his message to investors: “I don’t think we are at a new normal yet, but we have a good grip on what we need to do and how we are proceeding.”
As AB works feverishly to save Bud Light, whether or not Manning and Smith can help sales improve will surely be a strong indicator of whether any form of advertising can bring once-faithful customers back into the fold.