The early returns are in. And for Bud Light, it’s not pretty.
America’s top-selling beer was off 8.8 percent in the four-week period since the Super Bowl, deteriorating significantly from its previous sales trend and plunging the brand farther into the red for 2019, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through March 2.
The results offer the first comprehensive look at Bud Light’s performance since it spent millions airing a series of TV spots taking aim at Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup as an ingredient.
And instead of winning over drinkers with its promises of “transparency,” the opposite appears to be happening: Since the new campaign launched, Bud Light sales volume is off 9.2 percent, compared to down 6.7 percent in the 12-weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. The brand’s share of total beer also worsened, down 1.2 points of share versus down 1.1 points heading into the holiday, per Nielsen.
The two beers its ads primarily target, Coors Light and Miller Lite, each have held their share trends, per Nielsen. Miller Lite, in fact, continues to pick up share in total beer and has gained a full share point in the premium light segment year-to-date. Coors Light has held share in premium lights, per Nielsen.
“It’s clear that Bud Light’s desperate attempt to mislead consumers is not helping them,” says Anup Shah, vice president of the Miller Family of Brands. “Let me be clear: Bud Light’s attack is not going to distract us from our strategy. In fact it only intensifies it. We’re going to continue to focus on making our message break through, connecting with Latino drinkers and being bolder in our competitive spirit.”
Aside from energizing its competitors, Bud Light’s campaign has inflicted collateral damage: The ads rankled America’s farmers, angered some retailers and sparked a wave of media reports questioning the motive and wisdom of the campaign.
Despite mounting evidence the campaign isn’t having its desired effect, Anheuser-Busch is showing no signs of backing off. It has pasted billboards across the country attacking corn syrup, mocked the ingredient on Twitter, and it continues to air the TV spots.
Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But at least so far, the campaign is not showing any sign of salving the brand’s continued swoon. Bud Light has now posted 15 consecutive quarters of share losses in the premium lights segment, a trend that its previous campaign, which centered on the catchphrase “Dilly Dilly,” also failed to stanch.