“I certainly can’t and don’t speak for Anheuser-Busch but I don’t think it wants any distraction, chatter or endorsements from either Republican or Democrat politicians right now,” said Kimberly Clemens, co-founder of beer business consultancy Pints LLC. “It just wants to turn the page, move on, create fun, positive moments for Bud Light, have a great Super Bowl weekend, and sell more beer.”
Even before the changing sentiment of high-profile figures, Bud Light expressed confidence that the brand would recover. AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris in an Oct. 31 earnings conference call said that more than 40% of Bud Light’s lapsed drinkers in company surveys said they were “ready to return” to the brand. “This gives us some certainty that we are moving in the right direction,” Doukeris said.
Yet the brand has a long way to go. Bud Light sales fell 20% last year, according to NielsenIQ figures shared by Beer Marketer’s Insights. The sales decline saw Bud Light dethroned as the country’s best-selling beer by Modelo Especial, a product of AB InBev rival Constellation Brands.
AB InBev declined comment for this story.
From September: Bud Light among most polarized brands
Now Bud Light, which pledged to stay out of politics once the Mulvaney controversy erupted, is seeing its motives examined as a result of a newly crafted partnership with comedian Shane Gillis, who has been described as “Trump-friendly.”
Gillis’ story has been interpreted by some as a tale of woke-culture backlash: He was hired by “Saturday Night Live” in 2019, only to be let go shortly afterward when racist jokes he’d made on a podcast resurfaced. As Gillis has gone on to success, including a popular Netflix special, his transgressions appear to be forgiven. He is slated to host SNL on Feb. 24.
Bud Light will be the presenting sponsor of Gillis’ upcoming tour. The comedian has mentioned being an enthusiastic Bud Light drinker in his act. And though some conservative outlets have cheered the move, Gillis’ post detailing his Bud Light partnership still received a share of angry responses.