Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of Bud Light, said on Oct. 31 that the company’s U.S. revenue for the third quarter fell 13.5 percent in a sign that Bud Light’s promotion with a transgender influencer continues to weigh on sales.
“Revenue declined by 13.5 percent with revenue per [hectoliter] increasing by 4.9 percent driven by revenue management initiatives,” the brewing giant said in a statement. It also noted a 17.6 percent decline in sales to wholesalers and a decline of 16.6 percent for sales-to-retailers.
That’s “primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light and impacted by shipment phasing ahead of our October price increase last year,” Anheuser-Busch wrote, noting that its U.S. earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) declined by 29.6 percent for the quarter.
“Approximately two-thirds of this decrease attributable to market share performance and the remainder from productivity loss, increased sales and marketing investments, and support measures for our wholesaler partners,” the company said.
It marks the second quarter where the Bud Light backlash has affected U.S. sales in the United States. Anheuser-Busch InBev also said in August that its U.S. division had recorded a drop in profit amid the response, which toppled Bud Light from its position as America’s best-selling beer for more than two decades.
Overall, the world’s largest brewer said adjusted earnings for the recent quarter rose 4.1 percent, to $5.4 billion, on revenues that climbed 5 percent, to $15.6 billion.
“Our mainstream portfolio delivered a mid-single-digit revenue increase as double-digit growth in South Africa, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic was partially offset by the revenue decline of Bud Light in the U.S.,” the report also said. “Our mainstream brands gained or maintained share of segment in the majority of our key markets, according to our estimates.”
Bud Light sales plunged amid a conservative backlash after the brand sent a commemorative can to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in early April before it was posted on social media. For a number of consecutive weeks, according to publicly available data, sales of Bud Light saw double-digit declines year over year.
In June, Bud Light dropped to second place in U.S. retail sales, behind Modelo Especial. Modelo remains the market leader, with nearly 9 percent of the share in year-to-date retail sales through Oct. 21, while Bud Light has an 8 percent share, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. dollar sales of Bud Light were down 29 percent in the four weeks ended Oct. 21 compared to the year-ago period, according to Nielsen data compiled by Bump Williams Consulting, the AP reported. Sales are down nearly 19 percent for the year to date.
Last week, Anheuser-Busch announced a new “multiyear marketing partnership” with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) mixed-martial arts promotion, meaning that Bud Light will return as the official partner of the brand. More than a decade ago, the UFC and Bud Light were partners.
“I’m proud to announce we are back in business together,” UFC CEO Dana White said in a statement. “There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for.”
However, some prominent social media users signaled they might boycott the UFC, as well, over the Bud Light partnership and Mr. White’s comments about “core values.”
“Are you saying that UFC is okay with Bud Light promoting the evil transgender ideology of Dylan Mulvaney? Signed, millions of fans who will boycott you too,” conservative commentator Liz Wheeler asked in a post on X.
“No one is drinking Bud Light at any tailgate I’ve been to this fall,” commentator Clay Travis said. “Brand is dead.”
Former Republican congressional candidate Robby Starbuck said: “Lighting that money on fire would have been less embarrassing than what’s about to happen.
“Fighters are gonna hate this. Fans will hate it. The customers aren’t coming back.”
With the UFC deal, Bud Light appears to be trying to rehabilitate its image with its core consumer base after the Mulvaney controversy. Recently, the beverage company moved to increase its visibility at NFL games and partnered with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce for commercials.
While financial terms haven’t been disclosed, a person familiar with the partnership told CNBC that the deal tops $100 million.
Amid the boycott calls, Mr. White told Fox News host Sean Hannity last week that the deal isn’t about money.
“There are many other things that are important to me other than just the money,” he said. “And the people that were all involved in this negotiation, on every side, absolutely, positively know that my choice was not determined by money.”