Patriotic Reboot Doesn’t Change Bud Light’s Sobering Outlook
It’s Public Relations 101. When you’re getting hammered by critics, distract. If you can’t change the narrative, try changing the subject. Unfortunately, that trick doesn’t always work, as the big cheeses at Anheuser-Busch are quickly learning. After the worst two weeks in the company’s 171-year history, CEO Brendan Whitworth did his best “Hey, look over here!” moment. But it, like their low-level decision to debase women and alienate core consumers, bombed.
Any other time, the iconic Clydesdales galloping across picturesque American landmarks would have been a slam dunk. Until recently, the patriotic shots of couples waving their flags or women pledging allegiance would’ve been considered “on brand” for any Budweiser ad. Now, customers see it for what it is: a non-apology apology from a company that thinks slapping the stars and stripes on a commercial will help people forget they made a mockery of women to sell beer.
Or not sell beer, as the case may be. “Steep” doesn’t begin to describe the cost of partnering with Dylan Mulvaney, Hollywood’s favorite dress-wearing son. Since plastering cans with his pitiful imitation of Audrey Hepburn, Anheuser-Busch has lost a whopping $6 billion in market capitalization — ironically turning the beer into the “out of touch” “brand in decline” that Bud’s millennial managers claimed they were avoiding.
Their refusal to read the room is forcing Whitworth to pivot, as even the GOP presidential candidates take turns making Bud Light the butt of every joke. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy seized the moment to introduce “Bud Right” koozies. “There are *two* genders,” the Strive Asset Management co-founder tweeted. “Men are men & women are women. Don’t apologize for the truth.”
Fellow 2024 hopeful and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) took aim with a killer parody of Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genuis” ad series of the early 2000s. In it, he shows a series of trans-identifying athletes like Lia Thomas with a stinging voiceover: “Once mediocre in the men’s division, now cream of the crop in the women’s. You couldn’t cut it with the boys, so you pushed women off the podium. Because without you, sports would be fair. Without you, women’s sports would be for, well, women.”
And instead of walking back the deal that has country musicians shooting cases of his beer and smashing cans on stage, Whitworth released a nothing burger statement about “never intend[ing] to be a part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.” Ironically, that is something the company managed to accomplish, as a clear majority unite around the decision not to support the brand.
When Rasmussen asked Americans about the debacle this week, more than half (54%) said they supported boycotting Anheuser-Busch. Only 30% were opposed, and 16% were unsure. “…[I]t’s pretty clear they stepped in a hornets’ nest,” Rasmussen’s Mark Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, almost comically, Democrats set out to prove that a beer that shills for transgenderism is just fine with them. In what many are calling the “most cringe” photo op ever, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Mark Takanko (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) forced a picture where all of them are enjoying conveniently posed Bud Lights. As candids go, it was a bust. “How convenient that all of the labels are facing the camera,” The Daily Caller’s Kay Smythe jabbed. It’s also “so strange that no one is talking but everyone is smiling.” And “why is there literally no one else in the photo? Oh, because it’s staged, of course!” she mocked.
Of course, Democrats have been willing sycophants of this transgender absurdity since day one. Republicans, if they’re smart, will stay on course, leaning into the outrage of the American people. This idea that the GOP and groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee should back off their attacks, when the American people are with them, is ludicrous. So what if the company is a major donor? If April’s freefall is any indication, they won’t have much money to give.
As the GOP’s conquering hero of corporate activism urged, no conservative should be lifting a finger to help Bud Light. “I mean, honestly,” DeSantis said, “that’s like them rubbing our faces in it. And… [if] these companies that do this, if they never have any response, they’re just gonna keep doing it.” This is not a one-off, he argued. “[I]t’s part of a larger thing where corporate America is trying to change our country, trying to change policy, trying to change culture. You know, I’d rather be governed by ‘We the people’ than woke companies. So I think pushback is in order across the board.”
Family Research Council’s Meg Kilgannon agreed. On “Washington Watch” Monday, she insisted that the only way corporate America will quit “marching to the beat of the leftist drum” is if “we make it hard on their bottom line. And if we don’t continue this pressure, then [that will be] difficult.”
Anheuser-Busch’s latest ad ended by saying, “This is a story that’s bigger than beer.” The same could be said here. As FRC President Tony Perkins pointed out on “Washington Watch,” “…[C]orporate America has become intoxicated with this woke agenda. … It impacts the Anheuser-Busch Corporation and all the other corporations [watching] this happening. So they have to take note. … In this case, it would be good for people to fall off the Budweiser wagon.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.