It’s been some three months since the controversial partnership between Bud Light and trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and the hits just keep coming for the embattled brewer. It all began in early April when Mulvaney posted about the Bud Light March Madness campaign on Instagram. The ‘woke’ partnership faced backlash almost immediately and eventually evolved into a boycott of the beer maker.
Two of the marketing executives involved in the ill-fated collaboration – vice president of marketing for Budweiser, Alissa Heinerscheid, and group vice president for marketing, Daniel Blake – took leaves of absence. But the brand largely stood by the decision, which seemed to be part of a larger ‘rebranding’ strategy. Just days before the Mulvaney post, Heinerscheid told the Make Yourself at Home podcast that her goal was to shed the brand’s “fratty” image. “We had this hangover, I mean, Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach,” she said in the now-viral clip.
In an attempt at damage control, Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth appeared on CBS This Morning earlier this week to discuss the state of the company that has continued to see sales declines. He once again stopped short of apologizing for the campaign.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Carrie Prejean Boller and Britt Mayer, former Miss California USAs and co-founders of The Battle Cry, to discuss the latest with Bud Light and why the redemption efforts appear to be too little too late.
Bud Light Backlash Continues
As of the month of June, Bud Light sales continue to plummet. For the week ending June 17, sales dropped 28.5 percent compared to a year ago, signaling a new low from an almost 26 percent drop in sales for the week ending May 25. In addition, the company suffered a $27 billion loss in market value as of May 31.
In another blow, Mexican lager Modelo has surpassed Bud Light as the top-selling beer in the United States. It’s the first time Bud Light has not been number one since 2001.
Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Bud Light has resorted to offering a $15 rebate for customers who purchase their beer between June 15 and July 8. For those keeping count, that makes a purchase of a 15-pack close to free.
Whitworth Won’t Apologize
On Wednesday, Whitworth, a Marine Corps veteran and former CIA employee, sat down with CBS News for what turned out to be a harder hitting interview about the partnership with Mulvney and the beleaguered brand. He refused to apologize for the campaign, instead calling the backlash “divisive.” He insisted that “Bud Light does not belong there.” And, when pressed on the intention behind the collab, Whitworth claimed, “it was a gift” and “it was one can.”
Whitworth said Bud Light has spoken with over 100,000 consumers, and “the feedback is to reinforce what Bud Light has always meant to them, which is good times, goodwill, and easy enjoyment.”
CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil asked Whitworth point blank if he would do anything differently if he had the chance, but he continued to dodge. “There’s a big social conversation taking place right now,” Whitworth told Dokoupil. “And so for us, what we need to deeply understand and appreciate is the consumer and what they want, what, what they care about, and what they expect from big brands.”
Dokoupil continued to press Whitworth for his position on the campaign and whether it was a mistake. A straight answer never came. “Bud Light has supported LGBTQ since 1998,” Whitworth claimed. “So, that’s 25 years and as we’ve said from the beginning we’ll continue to support the communities and organizations that we’ve supported for decades.”
Megyn called out the lack of accountability. “In just an act of cowardice, the CEO dodged,” she lamented. “Why wouldn’t you just look into the camera and say, ‘We screwed up and we’re sorry’? That’s how strong the hold of these activists on corporate America is.”
Mayer agreed and said companies are starting to realize just how divided their customer base is. “These companies thought that they could absolve themselves from criticism by playing middle ground,” she said. “Well, guess what? There’s such a divide now in America… and he’s caught in that place, the tension of you can’t play both sides. So, what are you going to do?”
Has Anyone Gotten Fired?
The Daily Caller is reporting that in texts obtained from a current regional head of marketing, Heinerscheid and Blake are “gone gone.” The source revealed in a text message to the outlet that the news is being kept under wraps. “To my understanding, if we publicly announced the word ‘fire,’ it opens up the potential for them to sue us,” the source said. “That’s why we said ‘leave of absence.’” Even so, the source claimed “the wholesalers would have had an absolute hay day with leadership if they didn’t remove her.”
Megyn, for one, does not believe those moves – if true (Anheuser-Busch has refuted the report) – go far enough. She called for Whitworth’s termination after his abysmal appearance on CBS. “This a former [Marine]… where’s that courage now when he needs it most, when we’re at the heart of an issue that is dividing America,” she asked. “He has the chance to stand up for half the population of Americans – American women – and he won’t do it. I think he should be fired.”
You can check out Megyn’s full conversation with Prejean Boller and Mayer by tuning in to episode 578 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.