The pact includes a $2.5 million donation to the foundation as
well as limited-edition packaging for Budweiser that includes an
image of the Statue of Liberty. The deal also includes a concert
series. The arrangement required the National Parks Service to
waive a policy that prohibits marketing campaigns that associate
the parks with alcohol products,
according to PEER, which obtained documents from the service
requesting the waiver.
The group cited the Bud Light label controversy as one of a
"number of knotty questions" that the parks service "has not
"If the Park Service thinks its path to 'relevancy' runs though
alcohol promotions, then America's best idea has truly lost its
way," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch stated in a press
The waiver does not set a precedent. A parks service spokeswoman
said the agency in 2014 entered into a partnership to allow for the
sale of a "National Park Wine Collection," for which she said there
"was no adverse reaction from the public." She added that "the
waiver permitting the Budweiser partnership carefully builds on
that past successful partnership."
When the deal was announced on April 22, the brewer promoted it
as helping to raise awareness of the national parks, while teasing
an "epic surprise concert" this summer.
The Whatever problem
What is potentially more troublesome for Bud Light is that the
label backlash is occurring one month before its "Whatever, USA,"
event, which is a signature marketing execution for the broader "Up
for Whatever Campaign." The event amounts to a town takeover that
this year will be held on Catalina Island, Calif., from May 29-31.
Fans can win a trip to the island, which will essentially be used
for a heavily branded Bud Light party.
In a statement posted across Bud Light social media channels
Wednesday night, the brand stated that "No means no. We missed the
mark and apologize. We've stopped producing this label." In his
statement, Mr. Lambrecht referenced the Catalina event, saying
"we're actively preparing for a responsible, fun and successful
A key strategy for the "Up for Whatever" campaign is to link
experiential and digital marketing. The idea is that attendees at
events like "Whatever, USA" will fill social media with fun posts
and pictures that will be promoted by the brand and shared across
the web. At last year's event -- held in Crested Butte, Colo. --
some 37,000 pieces of content were created, including thousands of
pieces of user-generated content shared over social media, reaching
15 million consumers, the brewer stated last year.
But in the wake of the bottle gaffe, consumers seem more willing
to bash rather than boost Bud Light on social media. And if the
mood does not change, the brewer risks having some of its
"Whatever, USA" posts hijacked by critics.
"When you are one these massive, big brands, everyone is
watching every move you make and will throw a rock at you if you
trip and fail," said a former A-B InBev employee who requested
anonymity. "Every step you make you have to double check and double
check again, because you are the category leader. You make one bad
move and you are going to be jumped on."
The incident has certainly gained attention: There were 45,600
tweets about Bud Light from 12 a.m. on April 28 through 12 p.m.on
April 30, compared with 3,900 tweets during the same period last
week, according to ListenFirst, a data and analytics company.
One popular saying on Twitter described Bud Light as "the
official beer of rape culture."
Other tweets were more subtle, but equally damaging for a brand
trying to win over millennial consumers.
For instance, from Tuesday morning through Thursday early
afternoon, more than 1,740 tweets linked Bud Light with the phrase
"has no chill," according to social intelligence company Wayin. The
phrase basically means someone or something has lost their cool, or
as the Urban Dictionary defines it: "People who have 'no chill' or
who have lost their 'chill' have effectively lost their ability to
act in a rational manner."