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Bud Light gets stock downgrade just weeks after Dylan Mulvaney fallout

Bud LIght
Posted at 11:44 AM, May 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-11 13:45:44-04

Bud Light sales have dwindled and its stock has been downgraded in a continuing fallout since the popular beer ran a promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulveney last month.

Parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) sold $71.5 million worth of Bud Light in the week ending April 29, a 23% drop compared to a year ago, according to data from Bump Williams Consulting. Budweiser sales have hit $31.5 million so far this year, down roughly 11%, the firm said. Sales of other Anheuser-Busch brands — including Budweiser, Michelob Ultra, Busch Light and Natural Light — have also taken a hit.

Mulvaney, a San Diego-based trans rights activist and actress, posted an Instagram video April 1 to promote a contest for the beer brand. In the promotion, she showed off Bud Lite cans with her face on them commemorating her "365 days of girlhood" series in which she documents her gender transition.

The post sparked outrage from conservatives, including from singers Kid Rock and Travis Tritt, and calls to boycott the brand. The 26-year-old Mulvaney, who has 10.8 million followers on TikTok and 1.8 million on Instagram, has received hateful comments online, as well as support.

RELATED: Yellowstone County bars see Bud Light sales drop after partnership with transgender influencer

That's led Wall Street analysts to call the episode a "crisis" and downgrade the company's stock to "hold." In a note Thursday, analysts at HSBC said the Bud Light sales slump might be worse than reported, and that beverage distributors are considering distancing themselves from the brand.

"The way this Bud Light crisis came about a month ago, management's response to it and the loss of unprecedented volume and brand relevance raises many questions," the analysts wrote. Citing Beer Marketer's Insights, they said "the trend of declining beer volumes is worsening and may be down more than 25% in April," while "US distributor relations appear to be at an all-time low."

"It is unclear how ABI will reverse eroding U.S. volume and brand relevance, and fix distributors' trust, without leadership changes," analysts said.

Anheuser-Busch didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from CBS MoneyWatch Thursday.

Backlash from both sides 

Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth on April 14 expressed regret regret over the division caused by the company's collaboration with Mulvaney, though his statement did not refer to the promotion directly. Soon after, the two Anheuser-Busch InBev executives who supervised the failed marketing collaboration were put on leave.

The company's attempt to distance itself from the campaign caused further backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, with some bars pulling all Anheuser-Busch products from their menu.

RELATED: Dylan Mulvaney breaks silence on Bud Light partnership backlash in new video

Anheuser-Busch's Global CEO Michel Doukeris said that Budweiser is still experiencing conservative backlash over the episode, in part because the public mistakenly believes it has a long-term partnership with the social media influencer,

"We will need to continue to clarify the fact that this was one can, one influencer, one post, and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time," Doukeris said last week on an earnings call.

He added, "it's too early to have a full view on the impact, but I know that we have the people and the partners to learn from that and to continue to move forward and to come out stronger."

The blowback has not affected all beer brands. Sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite are up 20% from last year, while Keystone Light has grown 14%, according to Bump Williams.

ABI's stock price was flat on Thursday, trading at about $61 a share. The stock is down more than 7% this month.