Mr. Wonderful: ‘Bud Light Has Become Posterboy for Brand Mismanagement’

Investor and star of "Shark Tank" Kevin O'Leary, arrives to testify before the Senate Banking Committee about cryptocurrency and the collapse of FTX, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Businessman Kevin O’Leary, known as “Mr. Wonderful,” says that Bud Light “has become the poster boy for brand mismanagement” after its partnership with transgender TikToker Dylan Mulvaney that led to a national boycott of the brand.

On Tuesday, O’Leary, a star on the hit NBC show Shark Tank, tweeted the sentiment, which he first shared on Saturday while appearing on the Fox News Rundown.

The entrepreneur and venture capitalist said the “narrative” that has emerged around Bud Light likely serves as “a good lesson for every CEO in every sector of the economy” about the powers of social media in response to branding around a social issue:

This issue went viral in 48 hours and most often when an issue goes viral like that, it burns out in another 48 hours, but that’s not what happened here. The story and narrative changed to sales and so people that did not like the message, regardless of where you stand on these social issues or gender narrative or whatever, they took it out by basically boycotting the product immediately and switching preference to other brands that did not make them get involved in this issue. 

O’Leary went on to call the boycott a “nightmare from hell for the brand,” adding that he has spoken with his own CEOs about the fallout. He noted that a move to attempt to “balance the gender narrative” risks sparking public backlash from another population of consumers:

You have to ask yourself, in crisis management, “What do you do?” Because if you go to the other side and try to balance the gender narrative you’re going to get a whole new onslaught of people that don’t like that. And so when you go into gender narrative on a beer which is primarily consumed by men, maybe you should of thought a little bit about that in reading that room. Maybe you should say ‘Well does this really fit my consumers psyche and narrative?”

Sales of Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch brands continue to see losses in sales compared to last year following Bud Light’s social media partnership with Mulvaney earlier this year. They collapsed by 24.6 percent for the week ending on May 13 compared to the same period last year, as Breitbart News noted, citing Nielsen Data provided to the New York Post by Bump Williams Consulting. For the week of April 29-May 6, sales dropped 23.6 percent after a 23.3 percent decline the week prior.

Budweiser sales fell 9.7 percent for the week ending on May 13, and Busch Light sales slid 6.8 percent versus 2022. Other Anheuser Busch-owned beers like Michelob Ultra and Natural Light dipped 2.9 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Bud Light would provide a free case of beer for all employees of its wholesalers amid the boycott. Now, the company is reportedly planning to purchase expired cases of its beer back from wholesalers.


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