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Chiefs’ Travis Kelce Partners with Struggling Bud Light: A Desperate Move?

Missteps or Evolution? Bud Light’s Controversial Branding Approach


Amid a steady downtrend in Bud Light’s sales, the brand’s newest ad starring Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs standout, is seen as yet another frantic bid to regain popularity. Bud Light’s umbrella company, Anheuser-Busch, has been actively unveiling advertising content recently, eager to connect with its dwindling customer base.

The latest 15-second slot, showcasing Kelce and a group of men audibly opening cans of Bud Light, seemed to mark their current promotional tactic.

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In a high-profile move, the company shipped Bud Light cans emblazoned with the face of Mulvaney, a trans activist. This gesture sought to commemorate the milestone of her popular ‘365 Days of Girlhood’ network, which chronicles the daily tribulations and triumphs of her maiden year identifying as a transgender woman on TikTok. Embodied in this campaign was the company’s attempt to overhaul its marketing approach.

“We had this afterthought, this realization. Bud Light had evolved into a symbol of somewhat juvenile, somewhat aloof humor, and we felt it was time to adopt a fresh approach,” Mulvaney mentioned regarding her marketing vision.

The promotional strategy tried hard to push away from their frat boy image that had increasingly become synonymous with Bud Light in recent years.

The advertisement, aptly titled ‘Backyard Grunts with Travis Kelce,’ seemed to target Bud Light’s disenchanted male clientele. However, the majority of responses to the video scolded the brand for its most recent ploy to regain favor. The ad, instead of wining approval, was met with a fresh wave of criticism.

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“Bud Light seems to be driving the final nail in their coffin,” wrote one disgruntled observer. This sentiment echoes a general displeasure with the ad’s depiction of their consumer base. A hefty chunk of viewers felt it leaned heavily on tired clichés, portraying the men as ineloquent, grunting stereotype.

One critical commentator quipped, ‘Looks like ‘frat boy’ and ‘disconnected’ are back in vogue at Bud Light.’ These comments tease a palpable discontent with the intentions behind Bud Light’s marketing strategies. The feedback was an indication that the brand had not done enough to move away from its old image.

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Another bemused commentator posted, ‘I fail to grasp how this resonates with Bud Light’s intended demographic, transgender youth.’ There’s an evident disconnect between the commercial’s target audience and Bud Light’s recent branding attempts. Yet, Bud Light’s marketing team seemed to struggle to reconcile these different pulls.

Just a fortnight after word of Mulvaney’s high-profile tie-up emerged, Anheuser Busch took a sharp u-turn, unveiling a patriotic Budweiser spot. This ‘back-to-roots’ ad nostalgically brought back the brand’s iconic Clydesdale horses.

The commercial showcased these majestic equids trotting through a quintessential American backdrop, capturing the urban sophistication of New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as the earthy charm of America’s small towns and farms.

In the not too distance past, Bud Light enjoyed the status of America’s favorite beer. However, according to recent Nielsen data, the brand’s glory days seemed to be behind it.

The sales figures revealed a grinding 31% drop in Bud Light volumes during the week leading up to Father’s Day weekend – disappointing for what would typically be a high-sales period.

In the wake of recent data, comments bubbling up from the online backlash offered some unsolicited advice.

One individual wondered aloud, ‘”Maybe AB could think of an alternative, maybe a more affirmative depiction of manhood?” Their words begged the question – had Bud Light’s marketing taken a wrong turn by distancing itself from a demographic that might still appreciate a cold brew during a summer football game?’

“To ensure the survival and continued relevance of Bud Light, it might be worth considering a twofold strategy,” said a marketing analyst.

“On one hand, continue embracing diversity, while on the other, ensuring the traditional, loyal consumer base does not feel alienated.” Such strategies might bring back the disillusioned clientele while attracting new patrons.

Many believe Bud Light has a sturdy legacy and an evocative brand narrative that could be aptly leveraged.

The Clydesdale advertisement was seen as a step in the right direction, a moment that elicited nostalgia, another key selling point. This combined with contemporary messages of diversity might just be the golden recipe.

The challenges faced by Bud Light mirror the larger industry’s struggle to stay relevant amidst changing consumer preferences – the stylistic seesaw between maintaining old world charm while being inclusive. “It’s the same old dance,” another analyst mentioned, “Balancing old and new.”

Another strategic approach that Bud Light could consider involves creating less stereotyped advertisements aimed at their traditional customer base. By recognizing that their typical buyers appreciate being treated as intelligent consumers, the brand could help mend its damaged reputation.

This is all to say, Bud Light’s situation is not beyond salvaging. Though the recent bruises have left their mark, with the right outreach and messaging, a more nuanced branding strategy could help to rebuild their sales and standing in the U.S. beer market. The road to recovery is seldom easy, but with the right directions, it can become an inspiring journey.


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