Will Bud Light Backlash Mean A Non-‘Woke’ Super Bowl?

Super Bowl
Snacks for watching the Super Bowl | Image by Africa Studio/Shutterstock

When Bud Light partnered with a transgender influencer last year, it set off a firestorm of boycotts and public debate that cost the company dearly and propelled a competitor to the top-selling spot.

As The Dallas Express has reported, the backlash against Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Budweiser and Bud Light, has been severe and long-lasting. The company has lost nearly 30% in sales and has watched helplessly as Modelo Especial climbed into the top-selling spot during the summer of 2023. Modelo’s rise brought to an end a 22-year sales record, per CNN.

The consequences of Bud Light’s decline have been far-reaching, impacting workers, farmers, and stores that sell the company’s products.

Perhaps learning from its mistake, Anheuser-Busch won’t be running a controversial commercial this Super Bowl. The company plans to run an ad featuring several big-name celebrities and a humourous theme, two characteristics that polls suggest consumers find attractive.

A recent Harris Poll reported by Axios indicated that avoiding value-driven ads will resonate better with consumers. According to the poll, 69% of viewers want funny ads, while just 25% prefer value-driven campaigns.

Meanwhile, the beer manufacturer is also getting support from an unlikely ally, former President Donald Trump, who claims to have never had a drink in his life.

“The Bud Light ad was a mistake of epic proportions, and for that a very big price was paid,” Trump posted to Truth Social. “Anheuser-Busch is not a Woke company… Anheuser-Busch is a Great American Brand that perhaps deserves a Second Chance?”

In his post, Trump detailed the value that Anheuser-Busch brings to America, including tens of millions in scholarships and jobs.

Some commentators were not impressed with the current presidential candidate’s olive branch, even implying that Trump has a financial incentive to get supporters to back off the long-running and successful boycott.

“Trump is defending Anheuser-Busch/Bud Light and trying to undermine the most effective boycott of a company for pushing transgenderism,” Chronicles columnist Pedro Gonzalez posted on X. “Remember that Team Trump initially tried to stop this boycott but failed. Now they’re at it again, likely due to some financial arrangement.”

Despite the backlash against Trump, some long-time supporters took the opportunity to join him in calling for an end to the crippling boycott, including transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner.

“As someone that worked for this incredible American company, and got to know them very well, I raced for [Anheuser-Busch] in the 80’s I agree with [Donald Trump],” Jenner posted on X in response to the former president.

With estimates that around 110 million will watch the Super Bowl on February 11, the stakes couldn’t be higher for advertisers, and the fall-out from a Bud Light-type misstep could be drastic. With a $7 million price tag for a 30-second spot, companies are likely to avoid anything that might be controversial.

“I don’t think you’ll see many value-driven ads this year,” said Marcus Collins, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan to Axios. “People saw the Bud Light debacle and said, ‘I don’t want any of that smoke.’ Because of that, we should expect to see less of those manifestos about world views and ideals. Instead, expect a very humor-driven Super Bowl.”

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