The Bud Light Controversy Has Led To Increased Sales For Its Biggest Competition

It's not often that a brand follows up one public relations dust-up with another, but that's exactly what Anheuser-Busch did earlier this year. It all started innocently enough with Bud Light engaging trans activist and influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a promotion, prompting conservative media personalities to take aim at Mulvaney and Bud Light, and call for a boycott of the beer. The boycott led to the brand placing two marketing executives on leave. But this move was tagged by the LGBTQ+ community and its allies as reactionary and indicative of an overall lack of support. The combined result of these actions has struck Bud Light's bottom line hard, and led to a windfall for their largest market rival.

Molson Coors owns both the Coors Light and Miller Lite beer brands, each of which has seen sales soar over those of Bud Light to the tune of 50% in the last quarter. For perspective, Bud Light bested both brands combined in sales during the same period in 2022. The trouble first became publicly apparent when, in May 2023, Bud Light saw its position as the best-selling beer in the U.S. edged out by Modelo Especial, whose parent company, Constellation Brands, says sales continue to trend upwards.

Molson Coors stays positive

For their part, Molson Coors has stayed quiet regarding the PR problems their competition has faced, instead focusing on positive messaging surrounding their growth numbers. On a Q1 earnings call, President and CEO Gavin Hattersley was asked about whether he felt that the situation surrounding Bud Light would have long-term effects on the company's market share across brands. "I don't think anybody can say how long the situation is going to last," Hattersley explained. "And that's why our focus is squarely on our brands and taking advantage of the momentum that we created coming out of 2022 and also out of the first quarter."

It is worth noting that in a May 2023 blog post reflecting on first quarter sales, Molson Coors credited marketing initiatives and a diverse portfolio as drivers of growth. This includes the company's first national Super Bowl ad campaign in 30 years, increasing above-premium brand sales in the U.K. and U.S., and successful non-beer product offerings, such as hard seltzers, flavored alcohol beverages, spirits-based beverages, and non-alcoholic beverages.