Bud Light Boycott Causes CMO to Step Down


Benoit Garbe, the U.S. Chief Marketing Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev, will resign at the end of 2023, following a difficult year for Bud Light. This departure comes after the exit of Bud Light marketing VP Alissa Heinerscheid earlier in the year. However, Garbe’s role will not be directly replaced. Instead, U.S. Chief Commercial Officer Kyle Norrington will take over the marketing responsibilities for the country.

The challenges for Bud Light began in April, when TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney promoted the beer on her social media platforms. This partnership led to a transphobic backlash and a subsequent boycott from conservative groups. Additionally, LGBTQ+ communities and their allies also rejected the brand after Anheuser-Busch InBev failed to quickly support Mulvaney. As a result, by June, sales of Bud Light had fallen, with Modelo Especial overtaking it as America’s favorite beer. In the third quarter, the company reported a 13.5% decline in U.S. revenue per 100 liters.

In response to these challenges, Bud Light has launched several marketing campaigns to reestablish its position in pop culture. These efforts include a major summer push from Anomaly, NFL activations, and a new sponsorship deal with UFC reported to be worth $100 million.

Experts in the field have highlighted the importance of this situation for brand leaders, emphasizing the need for strategic understanding of consumer shifts and cultural relevance. Some suggest that placing marketers in more senior roles could be beneficial for brands like Bud in driving relevance and competitive advantage. It’s also advised that brands should be prepared for potential backlash and have a strong response strategy in place.

Despite the setbacks, there are signs of a rebound for Bud Light. Analysis from consumer insights company HundredX indicates that the brand’s values and trustworthiness are regaining favor with drinkers. Customer perception of Bud’s brand values and Budweiser’s ads has shown improvement since June. In the latest earnings update, AB InBev’s global CEO Michel Doukeris stated that the company would continue to invest in Bud Light marketing. Internal polling suggests that 40% of lapsed Bud Light drinkers might reconsider the brand, with a focus on traditional channels like NFL broadcasts and a concentration on the beer itself without controversial debates.

See first source: Adweek


Q1: Why is Benoit Garbe, U.S. CMO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, resigning?

A1: Garbe is resigning after a challenging year for Bud Light, including a significant backlash from a social media promotion. His resignation will be effective at the end of 2023.

Q2: Who will replace Garbe as the U.S. CMO?

A2: Garbe’s role will not be directly replaced. Instead, U.S. Chief Commercial Officer Kyle Norrington will oversee the marketing responsibilities for the U.S.

Q3: What led to Bud Light’s recent marketing challenges?

A3: Bud Light faced backlash and boycotts from conservative groups and discontent from LGBTQ+ communities following a promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Q4: How did the backlash affect Bud Light’s sales?

A4: Following the backlash, Bud Light experienced a decline in sales, resulting in Modelo Especial overtaking it as America’s favorite beer and a 13.5% decrease in third-quarter U.S. revenue per 100 liters.

Q5: What strategies is Bud Light implementing to recover its brand image?

A5: Bud Light has launched several marketing initiatives, including a summer campaign, NFL activations, and a $100 million UFC sponsorship deal, to regain its cultural relevance and position in the market.

Q6: What advice do experts offer brands in similar situations?

A6: Experts emphasize the importance of cultural connection, strategic understanding, and having robust strategies to manage potential backlash in today’s social media-driven environment.

Q7: Is Bud Light showing signs of recovery?

A7: Yes, recent insights from HundredX suggest a gradual improvement in Bud Light’s brand perception, indicating a slow but positive recovery in consumer trust and brand values.

Q8: What is AB InBev’s future plan for Bud Light’s marketing?

A8: AB InBev plans to continue investing in Bud Light’s marketing, focusing on traditional channels like NFL broadcasts and addressing consumer feedback to concentrate on promoting the beer without engaging in controversies.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Rythik; Unsplash – Thank you!